Muskrat

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A couple weeks ago we paid another visit to the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge over in Missouri. There were thousands of snow geese and we watched a group of trumpeter swans for quite a while too. (I’ll have a post about them later.)  While we were enthralled by the swans, there was a persistant squeek – squeek – squeeking sound and a splish-splashing from somewhere nearby. I was too distracted by the swans at first to pay any attention, but finally Harland exclaimed,

“Oh, it’s a muskrat.”

And there he was, right near the water’s edge paddling around looking for food and squeek – squeeking all the time as if to say,

“Hey, I may not be a beautiful swan, but I’m interesting (and cute too) in my own way, you know.”

 A few muskrat factoids:

  • Muskrats are about 20 inches long, half of that being tail.
  • They are a semi-aquatic rodent, living mostly in wetlands.
  • They can swim underwater from 12 to 17 minutes. They are less sensitive to the build-up of carbon dioxide and can also close their ears to keep the water out.
  • They live in family groups consisting of a male and female and their offspring.
  • They build nests to keep warm in winter and protect themselves from predators. In ponds and lakes they burrow into the pond dam, and in marshes, they build lodges up to 3 feet high of mud and vegetation.
  • They eat mostly vegetation such as cattails, but may also eat mussels, crayfish, and frogs.
  • Native Americans predicted the severity of the oncoming winter by observing the size of muskrat lodges.

So our little muskrat was right, he is an interesting character.

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