Muskrat food

 

Last Saturday, I spoke at a symposium and showed many portraits of local creatures. I noted that the muskrat, the smallest of our three semi-aquatic mammals, is often unjustly maligned. It is not actually a rat, but an aquatic vole, and substantially a vegetarian that feeds on aquatic weed. 

I did a bit of digging to see if I could discover why this little creature gets demonized. Apart from the misconception that it is a rat, it seems that farmers don’t like that it burrows into pond banks and dock owners don’t like that it gnaws on some materials used for floatation. These rather narrow concerns don’t impress me. I like muskrats.

A muskrat swims back to its den with a mouthful of aquatic weed. You go, muskrat!

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2 Responses to Muskrat food

  1. Leslie Sanders says:

    Alistair,
    thanks for this. I have watched with delight the muskrats ferrying aquatic weed back to the den on our pond. Neighbors claim muskrats are somehow dangerous, but no facts offered. Would love to know your thoughts.

    • Alistair says:

      Leslie, I suppose that it is possible that your neighbours are experienced muskrat researchers whose subtle insights go well beyond those of their grannies having been scared by a muskrat in a dream. Certainly there are local dangers of concern to me: drunk or distracted drivers, inadvertently standing between a grizzly sow and her cubs, the false-positive assessment of disgustingly protective dogs. A muskrat does not appear anywhere on such a list. I have stood within metres of both a black bear and of a muskrat and neither was threatening. Besides, what is the muskrat going to do? If it were to seek the salad I was eating, I would be delighted to offer it (in exchange for pictures, of course). As a child, I went swimming below and around a dock containing a muskrat den. As an adult, I watched these timid (and myopic) creatures collect forbs around me. So, I do wonder what musquash dangers your neighbours fantasize. (On the other hand, humans are a real danger to muskrats — but that is another topic.)

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