Muskrats Move In

A stream flows out of the cattail marsh next door bisecting our land.  There have always been signs of muskrat activity in the marsh, but never on our side.  This year we have two new muskrat structures built in our part of the stream.

Muskrats aren’t true rats, although they look like swollen, long haired rats.  They live in slow flowing streams, ponds, and swamps, feeding on aquatic plants (although they will readily eat cultivated crops if available) and small wetlands animals (amphibians, crustaceans, and fish).  They are pretty good at avoiding contact with humans, but they are said to be fierce biters and scratchers if cornered.  We wouldn’t know; we never get that close…

Here is one structure just after construction completed in November.  It is about 3 feet high and 4 feet in diameter at the water level.  Below water the base is almost 7 feet in diameter.

Here is one structure just after construction completed in November. It is about 3 feet high and 4 feet in diameter at the water level. Below water the base is almost 7 feet in diameter.

They build several types of structures for housing and feeding.  Most of their construction happens in the fall.  In flat areas they build elevated lodges, rest stops, and feed dens out of cattails, reeds, and other aquatic plants.  They typically have water-level or underwater entrances leading upward to dry chambers.  They can become pests when they build their dens in embankments and dams.  Their burrowing weakens dams, undermines culverts, and can lead to total structural failure if left unchecked.

Here is Lando checking out the same hill yesterday.

Here is Lando checking out the same pile yesterday.  It has settled a bit and the ice and water level has risen.

When we build our new pond the muskrats will be eager to undermine it, so we intend to build in a drain to lower the water level each fall to discourage muskrat activity and to expose any new tunneling.  A neighbor traps muskrats and gets a few dollars for each pelt, so trapping will also be part of the strategy for mitigating muskrat damage.  Muskrats are so prolific that trapping is usually insufficient to eliminate them, but it can keep populations at manageable levels.

2 Comments on “Muskrats Move In

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: