Saturday, April 11, 2009

It's the Easter Rodent!

Nibbling a cattail root.

At Garden City Park in Richmond, there are three or more Muskrats that are usually easy to watch. Over the winter they have almost literally eaten themselves out of house and home, having mowed down the cattails that had been a ribbon of vegetation along the shore in the shallower areas. Now they scrounge amid toppled brown stems, looking for roots and other edibles.

Fur management.

Having thus exposed themselves, they have become resigned to the presence of human gawkers and their dogs. You can approach to within about 8 or 10 feet before they dive, and then they don't stay down for long. They often sit in plain sight, eating or grooming.

Muskrat shake.

One function of grooming is to enhance the waterproofing of the fur. Behind the eye is the Hardarian Gland, which provides water-repellent lipids that reduce water contact with the skin and resulting heat loss.

Note paddle-like foot, and laterally compressed tail, traits associated with an aquatic lifestyle.

So what are the Muskrats to do now in this sparsely vegetated pond? Disappear back down the storm drains from whence they came?

Well, sooner or later at least some of them will have to, if this year's Muskrat Love (listen at your peril) enhances the population. But spring also means new cattail growth, and new leaves are reaching up from the muck. We'll have to wait and see how things develop.


swamp4me said...

So, in Canada it's the Easter rodent...hmmm :)
It's good to see a healthy muskrat population. Ours are having a hard time thanks to the invasive nature of the nutria that have moved in.

Hugh said...

We don't have Nutria here--yet. They have naturalized in parts of WA.

Kim and Victoria said...

I like your Easter rodent. Nice shots.