Playground of the Wetlands

     Muskrats share their habitat with many other organisms and also provide many benefits to them. When muskrats build lodges or eating structures they use materials that can be found within their habitat including submergent and emergent vegetation. By harvesting these types of plants to eat or to build their lodges, they essentially make more space available in shallow water for other plants to grow that otherwise couldn’t have because of the limiting space. Secondly, by doing this muskrats help to clear excess vegetation and promote water flow into and out of their  habitat. This practice also benefits some of the other organisms living with the muskrats in their environment. Clearing out areas of emergent vegetation serves several functions for other organisms such as Canada Geese, snakes, turtles, frogs, other water fowl, wetland birds, and insects. Abandoned lodges can be used by some of these organisms as homes such as snakes, turtles, frogs, and the occasional raccoon. When muskrats clear out areas of emergent vegetation, they provide nesting sites for water fowl and wetland birds such as Canadian Geese, Mallards, cranes, heron, and many other species. However, muskrats can become destructive if their population is too large for the habitat and can destroy most of the submergent and emergent vegetation. This can be prevented through population regulation by predators.
     Muskrats have many natural predators that can attack via water, land, or air. Some of these predators include mink, fox, weasels, otters, hawks, crows, owls, snapping turtles, raccoons, bald eagles, largemouth bass, snakes, other muskrats, and humans. Mink, weasels, raccoons, and  snapping turtles are some of the more voracious predators that can cause the most damage to muskrat populations. The predatory birds tend to aim their attacks at young muskrats that are traveling on land looking for a new habitat. Muskrats will also resort to attacking other muskrats, especially pups, when there are shortages of food, too many muskrats populating the area, hard living conditions brought about by flooding in the spring or droughts in the summer, or over territorial rights. Another predator of muskrats is humans. Humans will use traps to catch muskrats for their fur or to remove them from an area that is experiencing problems because of the muskrats. To learn more about trapping, click here. Some of these problems include change in direction of water flow causing flooding near residential areas or overpopulation of a habitat which leads to destruction of habitat.

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