Muskrats – the battle begins

Down at the pond, this morning …

I found some muskrat tells …

3 lily pads, separated at the base of the stem, from the tuber.  Meaning it was likely done by a muskrat gnawing on the tuber.

They were all in the same spot – the NW corner, where I’d found a single lily pad 2 days back.

So – I called the trapper – leaving a phone number this time.  And, he called back.  But … he’s out of town for 3-4 weeks, at a trappers convention, no less (who knew?).

So again – undaunted – I went down to the pond – and found two old traps.  Pulling one out that I’d set last winter (it was empty and sprung).

And I set one, and put it right here …

Just like this …

Hoping for the best.  I simply hate muskrats.

Winter Spring Pond Diary

Tue May 23 Nice

Last night … there were 5 new water lilies just breaching the surface with 1-2 pads.  Here’s a couple of those …

No signs of decimation in the existing lilies.  Looking good.  Two different views …

Saw a minnow.  And – always seeing activity under the lily pads.

That’s either the minnows or blue gills.  Pretty sure it’s the minnows though.  But the surface is so occluded with stuff from the surrounding trees and shrubs

that visibility prevents ID’ing the creatures making the fuss.

However, this morning – that’s not so true – and … I saw baby minnows – 3/4″ long in the northwest section … in the shallows.

Tue May 16 Nature in Action

Seeing lots of surface activity – saw one school minnows – left of  end of dock.  About 20-25 fish.
Also saw a turtle, bout 8″ shell, swimming from west to east – at north-west back corner of pond.
And at least two Northern Water snakes – youngsters – about 20″ long – cruising along the surface of the pong.

Mon May 15 Fish Sightings

I’ve seen couple minnows, on two occasions, at end of dock – but Jerie saw a school of minnows – by laying on dock for a bit and being still.

Sat May 13 Restocking

Dumped 3 lbs Fathead minnows, and 12 Blue Gills into the pond.  Here’s Jerie with the 3lb bag of Fathead minnows from Jones Fish …

Some blues were dead as soon as they hit the water.  Was freaking over the minnows – which largely survived even though 50% were sucking surface air before release.  So I didn’t really examine the blues – could have shocked them … or … they just might not have survived the trip.  Might have been me though.  Some survived, I believe.

 Thu, May 11 AOK

Still no new damage.  Seems our outdoor semi-feral cats at taking care of the muskrats.  I seem them working the pond, every now and then.   They sometimes hunt in pairs.

Wed May 10 whoopsie

Trapper tele # might not have been a mobile – I should try again, leaving my number next time.

Tue, May 9  Geese?

I think it was the geese – otherwise, nothing new today.  Cept that I discovered Charlie also likes to eat water lilies.

And the geese – I’ll chase em off from now on, now that I know their appetites.

Anyway, the trapper didn’t respond to my message.
Removed maybe the last loose lily pad.  If I find another – hmmm …

Mon, May 8 Damage – the culprit?

3 small lily pads floating on surface – time to call trapper Jeff  (there were Geese in the pond yesterday – but I don’t think they’re the culprits).
I left him trapper Jeff a message around noon.  But later that day … after some research …
WRONG – Canadian Geese do eat water lilies, reeds, etc.  Specially young plants

Wed, May 3rd pond walk …

Water lilies are fine (yeah – many have come back – not sure yet how many, or if all of them)

Phrags – well some are tipped this way, and some that way – have to wonder if a muskrats been chewing on them down below – OTOH – we had some epic winds yesterday.  Going with the fact the water lilies are fine – and assuming still not muskrats.

April 25 – restocking

Planted some 20 water lilies from Lowes.

This means extracting the bulbs from the packaging, and gently tossing them into the pond where I want them to root.

April 20 – Returnees

And the ones coming back form last year continue to thrive.  The dock lily …

Monday, Jan 2nd pond walk revealed …

  • Yowsa – a 4″ hole coming straight up out of the top of the NE bank.
  • Yowsa – two holes in the side of the SW bank- under grassy ledges in the side of the bank.
  • And one in center of West bank just under the water.  I put a trap on it on Jan 17.

Jan 20 no new activity

Nothing new seen by those holes.  Including the trap.  (I covered the holes with twigs and leaves – they remain undisturbed)

Jan 22 trap triggered

The empty trap was triggered.  I reset it.  Area around hole had musky smell.  Here’s Charlie, inspecting the trap, before I set it up the first time.

On Jan 30 muskrat tells

I saw Muskrat shits on top of ice.  6 of them.  About 3/4″ inch long.  Slightly curled.  Final proof.  Serious tells.

On Mar 10 damage

I saw one closed white blossom.  Near the surface.  Just under the ice.

No other signs though.
Should call trapper Jeff

Canadian Geese Yesterday – abused water lilies today

Yowsa – went down to the pond this morning – and found 3 loose water lily pads floating.  Left a message for the muskrat trapper.  Then started to think a bit more – what else could do this?  And the light went on, and I started googling – yeah. We had Canadian Geese on the pond yesterday.  And today, water lily damage.  Hmmm.  And the various net gurus say – Geese love aquatic plants – including water lilies.  And especially young ones – which is all I have growing this early in the season.

We will see – whether it was geese or muskrats.

Fortunately, if it was the geese – they are easy to dissuade.  Simply start descending down towards the pond – and they take off.

Have a resident heron this year too.  Again.  But I researched them couple years back – and they do not eat water lilies.  This heron waits till I’m half way down the hill – then it flies up into the branches of the willow trees behind the pond – waiting me out.

Cats, water lilies and muskrats

I planted water lilies again, this year.

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Even though the muskrats cleaned us out last year – including all cattails, and most phrags.  Pretty much all the pond growth, eaten away at the roots.  Leaving a huge mass of dead rotting vegetation behind.

I tried trapping them last year – to no avail.  Got no muskrats.  And they got all living plant matter in the pond.

This brings me to the cats …

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No, not this one.  That’s Boris – and he’s never ever gotten himself even damp from that pond, much less wet.

These two guys …

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These guys, two of our outdoor cats that live on our back deck, more or less.  Little Shot (AKA Big Shot) and Big Shot (AKA Little Shot), pretty much twins,   Now Jerie …

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and I have seen those two all wet from the pond.

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And just a week or ago, we saw something quite surprising – one of those two cats walking out of the pond – dripping wet.

And 10 min later, while we were idly watching one of those cats stalking the edge of the pond – it leaped into the water in a high arc.  We couldn’t tell what it was after, or if it did indeed catch its prey.

But – those two cats were hunting something in the water.  And I doubt it was frogs –

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because we always have frogs – and the cats have never shown much interest in those frogs.

So, I’m thinking the cats have finished off my muskrats for me.

Optimistic thinking to be sure, but hey – I never thought I’d see wet cats, or see cats calmly walking out of a pond – or see them leaping into a pond – so – maybe.

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Also, none of my water lilies have been molested yet this year.  And the phrags don’t seem to be disappearing – but they’re harder to track.

Loving those cats.

Muskrat Damage to the Pond

Ouch … those ratty muskrats!!!

Just one month ago …

One month ago, water lilies untouched ...

One month ago, water lilies untouched …

And now, this …

Water lilies, after one month

No more water lilies, after one month of muskrats

So, I managed to get off one good shot

The Vigil

The Vigil

Just one shot, for many many hours of hunting, sitting still, in a chair, down by the pond.  Had ratty in the crosshairs, pulled the trigger, and he dived.  No blood.  The next day, he or another muskrat, was seen crossing the pond with a mouth full of plant matter.  They are so careful.  Trapping’s the only way – and I haven’t been able to find their hole, this season.  Not yet.  And now, it’s too late to save the pond – but I will eradicate those muskrats, this year, anyway.

Some Muskrat Damage

Damage done to cattails last night.  Really need to get that rascal, and any of his friends who may have joined him.  Can’t find the nest though – too much vegetation.  Need to stay up all night, watching, to find the little bugger’s home.  Perhaps a 22 with a night scope would be of some use?

Muskrats!

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The cattails lying on the pond surface in the above pic, are from a Muskrat having eating away some of the cattail’s root tuber.

These cattail fronds lying on the pond, were the first definite Muskrat tells this year.

Plus, today, Corey saw a small mammal swimming across the pond.  Had to have been a muskrat.

So tomorrow, in order to save the pond’s vegetation, I’ll dig 3  4″ holes in likely muskrat spots in the pond banks.  Digging each hole about 12″ into the pond bank.  And about 3″ under the water’s surface.  And then I’ll set a #110 trap in the entrance to each hole.

For ratty.

The artificial holes are because it’s almost impossible to find their actual tunnels, due to the dense vegetation lining most of the pond banks.  And supposedly, a muskrat can’t resist a good hole.  We’ll see.

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Pond Porn

First Water Lily Visible

First Time This Year – One water lily leaf is visible on the surface.  Two from other plants are visible below the surface.  Tomorrow, should be 3 plants with visible leaves.

No sign of any live muskrats.

The brown coloring in the water showed up again.  Like last spring.

Very wet behind the pond.  It leaks, you know.  From the muskrats.  My my.

Muskrats in the Spring

Spring is so brassy …

Spring is Big

Spring is Big

And sometimes, it brings muskrats …

Muskrat signs on the pond bottom – first of the season.  The fresh tan dirt on the normally dark bottom, indicates a muskrat has been holing out my bank nearby.

Tan dirt on pond bottom

Tan dirt on pond bottom

Tan dirt from ratty holing out my pond bank

Tan dirt from ratty holing out my pond bank

I found the hole – after 10 minutes or so of searching – had to bend up a pole to find it. It was narrower than others I’ve found.

Muskrat Hole Finding Tool

Muskrat Hole Finding Tool

So I grabbed a rusting #110 trap, set it, and placed it over the hole.  A stick helps keep it upright.  And a stake through the ring chained to the trap keeps everything from being carted away by other animals, or an animal wounded in the trap.  I think it’s usually fatal though.

A #110 Muskrat Trap set

A #110 Muskrat Trap set

Closer look

Taking a step back …

Some older nearby holes ...

Some older nearby holes …

I hope it hasn’t already eaten the water lily bulbs I put in earlier this spring.

One cat, two geese and a duck

Big Shot

Big Shot

Geese and a duck

Geese and a duck

Pond view today

Pond view today

Two geese came to visit today.  Along with the frog eating duck I saw the other day.  And while capturing this action down at the pond, from up on the deck, one of our feral cats came to check me out – and I caught him on camera – one of the shots … Big Shot?

Also, I found the critter that took off with one of my traps last fall – and the trap too – in a foot or so of water, near where I’d originally set it on the hole in the bank last fall.  Seems it was a muskrat, and not a mink.  So, that’s 4 muskrats total, and 2 mink, I trapped last fall.  Haven’t seen any muskrat tells so far this spring.