Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Muskrat Love in the frog pond

View from the other side of the pond
-the pathway is across the way where I usually sit.
Yes, down in the frog pond, beside the meadow, I noticed that the reeds and grasses were all bent and most were gone. I didn't think anything of it. I know Bambi ambles through there, and other critters.

I was hoping to clear away a path with my
reciprocating saw, but I don't want to bother them!
I went for walkies with Dorah and spotted this when walking on the far side of the pond. You cannot see it from our usual pathway.

This is called an 'eat-out', where all the plants in an area are eaten, or moved, which opens up the frogpond to many critters. If you recall, I installed a Wood duck box, and we had 4 babies successfully fledged down at the frog pond. The ducks visit our pond, but don't spend much time here as it is pretty shallow, and they are susceptible to predators. The momma and babies took off 24 hours after they hatched, the video and report is on this page.

The action on the pond is much fun to watch. My research tells me that muskrats need a metre or two, but the pond isn't that deep. In the drought of 2012 it all evaporated, with small fish and tadpoles dying on the dried up mud. it was so sad. But life returns. We had 3 bullfrogs singing for love in the spring and early summer. Geraldine and Jerry are still ensconced in the goldfish pond beside the house. I expect they will hunker down there over the winter, leaving two male bullfrogs down below.

My eagle eye spotted it right away! Just as I was mourning the end of our summer population (the animals, birds, and insects), we have a new critter to watch in winter.

Muskrat information (Hinterland Who's Who)

It is a large field mouse, sort of a water rat, unlike the squirrels who are our tree rats!
Its tracks look like long, skinny racoon tracks, 4 toes in front, 5 in back.

It has specially evolved teeth that protrude ahead of their cheeks and lips. They can close behind them, allowing it to chew on stems and roots under water with its mouth closed.

Their large hind feet can paddle quite quickly.
While the babies are born blind and hairless, they are able to swim at 3 weeks of age. They write that they live to only 3 or 4 years of age, falling as prey to other animals. Fortunately, they are quite prolific in years of abundant food.

It has adapted to water life, and can find food under a metre of ice and snow, in the cold and almost total darkness. They smash out push-ups, like seal breathing holes, and I will look for those in the winter. Their dens are similar to beaver dens, with an underwater entryway.

Here is our Bala Muskrat from 2010
It was talking to our pigeon statue,
with a Mourning dove in the foreground!
We had muskrats in Bala, when we lived there beside the lake. One day, sitting quietly beside the shore, in the early spring sunshine, with maybe 2' of open water on the immediate shore, ice farther out, a muskrat popped up from under the ice and scared the pants off of us, as well as itself!

Food sources

 Muskrats are omnivorous: vegetable and animal foods, including: cattails, sedges, rushes, water lilies, pondweeds, wild rice, pickerelweed, clover, willow, acorns, maple samaras (maple keys), arrowhead, sweet flag, switchgrass, mussels, crayfish, frogs, snails, and fish.

They live in large families, I spotted 3 muskrats, and the females can brood 5 times in a summer, with up to 10 young per litter.
This I spotted on a drive on a backroad.

Predators

 Raccoon, Red Fox, owls, hawks, American Bald Eagles, Common Snapping Turtle, Bullfrog, snakes, and Largemouth Bass; as well as cats, dogs, and people.
Cats - worries me some...

Of course, no bass or human predators here, as this is a small private pond, about 100' x 50'. In spring it can be 4' deep. The raptors might have a hard time, as it is pretty much surrounded by a tree canopy, although open in the middle.
He hisses at the Muskrat just beside him


On another drive out and about, on Code Rd., I spotted some geese, the one hissed at the muskrat who swam too closely to momma and babes. The muskrat appeared unfazed!

Here is a video I took of the three eating away in the pond yesterday. It was a welcome diversion after a difficult beginning to the week. I'm glad they are opening up the frog pond, as it was growing over with pond grasses. I find it a peaceful place to sit and watch the frogs, tadpoles, Phoebes, and dragonflies. In winter the deer walk across, as well as the wild turkeys, leaving tracks in the snow.


Muskrat Love from Jennifer Jilks on Vimeo.
Not one, not two, but three muskrats love the frog pond.

5 comments:

Olga Hebert said...

You have a sharp I.

Red said...

They probably do better with deeper water but do survive on much less. I've seen them roaming around in the winter when they freeze and starve out of their pond.

William Kendall said...

Quite a critter!

Carver said...

Great shots and information about the muskrat.

Powell River Books said...

How cool. You have so many interesting critters around your place. - Margy