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muskratlead

Muskrat sightingPosted: August 10, 2012

By Larry Halverson/Friends of Kootenay

Although common in the Columbia Valley, muskrats have never become established in Kootenay National Park.

Muskrat swim by paddling with the hind feet, using the tail as a rudder.

The first record for muskrats in Kootenay was a sighting from Sinclair Creek by park warden Meredith in 1944. Another park warden also observed muskrat tracks at Dog Lake and in a wetland along Dolly Varden Creek. Five earlier records include: one observation near Kay’s cabin in the Sinclair Creek drainage in 1947, Kurt Seel collected a muskrat skull from Redstreak Campground in 1963. In 1982 and again in 1999 one was killed on the highway in Sinclair Canyon. In October 1997 five muskrats were seen at Dog Lake.

After 40 years of wandering around in Kootenay National Park I made my first muskrat observation in the park yesterday on July 26. I was quite excited as I watched the little fellow going about its business – swimming and feeding in an old beaver pond near Settler’s Road. At one point it came within one meter from where I stood motionless and quite except for the occasional camera click.
Where muskrats are more prevalent Parks Canada is using their numbers to measure wetland health: see Time for Nature – Visiting the Muskrat Lodge .

Above photo: A muskrat’s protruding front teeth allow it also to chew underwater with its’ mouth closed. Photos by Larry Halverson

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