It may look like a whole colony of muskrats has overtaken a wetland in the winter.
Mounds of plants are pushed up all around, but most likely it’s not as many muskrats as it appears.
Muskrats do not hibernate during winter, and they also don’t store food in their lodges like beavers do. That means that they need to find food and eat daily, even in cold weather.
They still live in their main lodges, but ice covering the rest of its habitat restricts it to finding food underwater. Yet, it still needs to breathe.
So a muskrat will use its sharp teeth to cut holes in the ice around its lodge, up to 100 yards away. Then it covers the holes with plant material and mud, creating a little hut where it can poke up through the ice, breathe, rest and eat. It will swim to its feeding grounds from its lodge, chew off a piece of food and take it to a push-up to rest and eat.
Muskrats can dive for up to 15 minutes due to a decreased heart rate and oxygen stored in its muscles. It stays warm in the frigid water due to its thick, waterproof fur. To stay warm, groups of muskrats will also huddle together in their lodges to share bodyheat.
Muskrat push-ups only last during the winter, and then they collapse as the ice melts in the spring. The main lodge remains intact.
We see many types of turtles roaming around northwest Iowa in the summertime, especially painted turtles and snapping turtles. But we don’t see any in the winter. Where do they all go? Painted turtles and snapping turtles spend their winters in lakes or ponds, living beneath the ice the forms. They survive because of a…Read More
During the autumn season, you’ll see acorns and other nuts falling from trees as the trees get ready to go dormant — basically, sleep — during the winter. Many animals take advantage of this time and gather those nuts to eat during the winter, and you’ve most likely seen plenty of squirrels running around with…Read More
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Looking at a wetland in the Iowa Great Lakes, you might see ripples coming from a moving little dot. Muskrats are adorable creatures that can glide through the water because of their dense fur that traps air for insulation and buoyancy, and they are very active this time of year. Let’s take a look at…Read More
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We live in Iowa because we like seasons. If we didn’t like seeing leaves bud in the spring and fall in autumn, if we didn’t like to see snowflakes dust the ground, if we didn’t like to a warm fire outside on a cool evening, we would all live in the tropics. This winter has…Read More