Archive for November 17th, 2009


Down by the river, I noticed that a new house has been added to the neighbourhood. A very attractive dome-style home has been prepared by an industrious builder. The builder, though busy as a beaver, is a smaller cousin, a muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus).


As befits the smaller size of its resident, the lodge is quite a bit less ambitious than that of a beaver, but still represents a substantial mound of materials. While beavers use tree branches to build their winter home, muskrats are cattail specialists. The lodge is constructed by first heaping cattails with mud and other plant matter to form a mound. Then, a burrow is built into the lodge from underwater. Muskrats depend on cattails for food as well as housing. Although they will eat crayfish and fish, muskrat diets are primarily made up of cattails and other vegetation.


You can compare this muskrat house to the beaver lodge shown in this post: At Work Under the Beaver Moon. Although close to the river edge, this lodge is surrounded by water. The water must be deep enough so that it will not freeze to the bottom during the winter, but shallow enough to allow the growth of cattails and other vegetation. Ideally, the water should be between 1 and 2 metres deep. Areas with a good supply of bulrushes, cattails, pondweeds, or sedges are preferred. Ahhh, home, sweet home.


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