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Monday, January 2, 2012

Muskrat lodges and the last camera trap photo of 2011

The weather continues to be unseasonably warm here in Central New York, so it was easy to convince Danika to join me in checking the cameras. Pickings were slim... only three individual deer were captured including the buck here.

White-tailed Deer
(Seneca Falls, NY 12/11)
 But the real find was in our wetland on the way to the cameras. We found what I believe are recently built muskrat lodges. I have to admit to being negligent lately when it comes to knowing what is happening out on my property. But I have to believe I would have noticed the two massive muskrat lodges despite my obliviousness. Muskrats are said to build in the spring and fall, and with our mild weather perhaps they have been extending the building into the winter.

Muskrat lodge
(Seneca Falls, NY 12/11)
Danika and I ventured into the water thinking we could easily make it to the lodges. I wanted a photo of her standing on top of one. But the 'rats had other plans... the lodges were built in water that was just a tad deeper the height of our boots. So we had to settle for examining them from an arm's length. Muskrat lodges are made from pliable vegetation (unlike beaver lodges which are made of woody material). Cattail was the building material of choice. I asked Danika to stand near a stalk so I could show off how the plant got its name. The hot dog or cat tail is actually the fruiting body of the plant.

Danika with cattail
(Seneca Falls, NY 12/11)
 Cattails are not just used by 'rats for builiding, but are also an important food source. Muskrats feed on the roots. One of the lodges has a nice runway going to the top. Muskrats do feed in the open but also feed under cover. I have never personally seen one on top of a lodge, but that runway is sure getting some use. Perhaps some of the muskrats are enjoying the view...
Runway on top of muskrat lodge
(Seneca Falls, NY 12/11)

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