(This post originally published in June, 2010)
I had an interesting encounter the other day while kayaking. I was floating among the American Lotus, when a Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) swam out of a dense growth of Lotus and headed straight towards the kayak:
As he got closer to the kayak, I could see he had chewed down an American Lotus stalk and was carrying it back to his nest:
The above photo was taken as the muskrat was about to reach the kayak. In fact, you might notice that the muskrat’s face is not really sharply in focus; he had just reached my camera/lens’s “minimum focus distance” and I was unable to maintain a tack-sharp image of him. Just after I shot this frame, he ducked under the water and swam under the kayak, emerging about 10 feet on the other side of me. He then swam off to my left, heading to his nest with the Lotus stalk still clenched in his mouth:
There are many muskrats at this location and I have often seen some swimming back and forth in this area. Many times, muskrats will build “huts” that sit out in the middle of the water. Although this location has a lot of huts around, I have noticed that a lot of the muskrats here have built their nests into the banks at the water’s edge. These nesting sites have underwater entrances (usually more than one) and it is usually easy to figure out just where they’re located by watching the muskrats swim towards the bank, then dive down when they are just a few feet from the bank, to enter their homes. I can just imagine that this little guy was taking his American Lotus stalk back to the nest … after the wife ordered Carry-Out!