Pond has been quiet – in that each day it looks the same as it looked the day before. In other words – the muskrats have not been active.
Are they gone? Or just laying low?
No new broken reeds. No half chewed bits of reed floating about. The surface holes to their dens have not been repaired. And they have not been used in over a week either. Nor have their underwater entrance holes shown signs of use. And there are no indications of new underwater entrances having been dug.
But the west bank reed patch is still relatively thick, and still capable of hiding underwater entrances to that bank, and the dens I know are still in that bank. But still, I see no reed bits floating about among those reeds – which would be there, if muskrats were at work.
Time will tell. But assuming the worst for now – and trapping continues.
The muddy ground crunched this morning, underfoot, as I walked the hill, down to the pond. Winter.
And the pond was skimmed with a thin layer of clear ice. Water was clear too. Quite stunning, looking through that clear still ice, down into the cold silent pond. No surface motion disturbing the view.
The trap set over the SW den’s underwater entrance was still in place. But – the opening to mink’s access hole … that had been snugged up with detritus – grass and reed parts. Wonder which species did that – mink or muskrat?
Looking for more tells – I inspected the high parts of the west bank – and by pushing my walking stick into the berm, determined that the muskrat dens were more extensive than I’d first imagined. About 50% of that bank, it seems.
Unfortunately, it’s been impossible, so far (but I keep learning more – so we’ll see) to find access holes among the reeds in the water along that bank. The reeds are just so dense – cannot see tells, and I’d have to just get lucky, to find the hole – by poking between reeds, virtually every possible inch of access under the water amongst the remaining reeds – that’s why I’m sticking to the SW den for my trapping for now, as it is is reed free.
Yesterday morning, Sunday, the trap over the entrance to the SW den was gone – apparently it had snagged, but not killed, a mink or a muskrat – and said animal took off with the trap attached. Ouch. Wonder which it was.
So yesterday, I put another #110 trap over that same underwater entrance. And staked it down much better this time … there’s a chain attached to the trap, with which to stake it down – I’d been using a short 1/2″ thick twig pushed a few inches into the mud on the bank (half measure). This time using 3′ x 5/8″ x 7/8″ pine stake pushed about 12″ into the muddy bank (full measure).
Nothing in the trap this morning. And … the mink made access hole above the SW den looked unused, as did the tan colored muddy muskrat slide on the pond bottom, fanning out from the front of the underwater entrance hole to the SW den – that also looked unused.
Are they all gone? Minks and muskrats? We’ll see. The trap’s still there, set, under the water, covering the SW den’s entrance.
Trapping – this morning, found a mink in the trap – it had been trying to enter the muskrat den through the underwater entrance, which of course had the trap set over it. I noticed too, that the hole above the den, was still in use, and had been tightened up – it was smooth from use, where the first day I saw it, it was just loose dirt. So – was the mink using the muskrat den? Anyway, I reset the trap, over the same underwater entrance.
So – total to date, taken over the last 3 days – 2 muskrats and 1 mink.
Neverending saga – had no idea so much was going on down there – only saw a muskrat once. Never saw a mink. Seen great herons, green herons, turtles, tads n frogs, northern water snakes – use to see water lilies, but the muskrats ate em. And seen dragon flies galore, all kinds of water bugs on top of the water, and nymphs in the water. Birds, ducks and geese. Rabbits galore. Deer tracks (almost every day during the cold months) – but deer sightings are rare (I only saw one so far). But the muskrats and minks were a surprise this year – although it’s apparent the muskrats had started eating the phragmites and cattails last year, but we just thought it was something seasonal, till they kept disappearing this year, along with the water lilies.
But those rats ate all of my water filters (all water lilies, most phragmites and all cattails) – and I look forward to the pond becoming pristine again next year – as I replant it – minus a few muskrats!!!!
Today – my first muskrat … caught in the trap I’d been focusing on, set on a hole to the den on the SW side of the pond. I’d reset it yesterday, pushing it down firmly into the mud in front of that entrance.
And at noon today, when I went down to the pond, there was a muskrat caught in the trap – it’s butt sticking out of the hole. Obviously caught as it was entering the den through that hole.
Do not know how the muskrat came to be outside of the den, as they are nocturnal. So it was likely inside a den when I set the trap around noon yesterday.
So, either there are other holes I haven’t found yet for this den, or it was using both dens (there’s one in the NW corner, and this one in the SW side) and moving from one to the other.