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Jan 7, 2011

Muskrats ~ giant water-loving mice

It's that time of the year when every little wild pond, and bit of hidden wetland, reveals a secret muskrat lodge or two.   I'm talking about the ones that are unseen and inaccessible in the deep, dense green of summer.   The pictures here were taken just a few minutes from my home in King City.   Invading the territory of the muskrat, and also that of the more-transient beaver, allows a few insights that are not normally available.   I was not aware, for instance, that a muskrat will build its lodge as a lean-to against or right-around a tree trunk (see photo above).   In this marsh, there are as many of this type as there are stand-alone lodges or bank dens.   Some dens have underwater tunnels, or open-air access holes, or vent holes (see photo at left).   The vent hole may be accidential as a result of little snow, so far this winter.   Evidence of beaver is found on many trees that are still standing or that have been felled by the tough-toothed rodent (see bottom right).   I didn't see any beavers lodges and I assume that they have dug dens in some of the steep banks around the marsh.   The water level is high as a result of the beaver dam that exists.   The beavers have been here for a couple years but are up against municipal workers who breach their dam every so often to prevent flooding of a nearby road.   Meanwhile the muskrats are content
with low or high water levels, it seems, and will likely occupy this wetland for quite some time.   The beavers will move on, but they and generations to follow will return in an endless cycle, unless my fellow citizens and I interfere.   The housing expansion that is occuring nearby in King City is not supposed to encroach here, but humans do prevail with their imperative to intrude upon whatever land they desire.    

Muskrat Photo by Silliopolous 

Please comment if you wish.  

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