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MWC Eco-sweep: Muskrat Maneuvers

 

Muskrats build huts in standing water by mounding mud and vegetation that is significantly elevated above the water level. A central chamber within the hut is located above the water level and is accessed using underwater tunnels. Feeding platforms are created the same way, do not have a chamber, and are only slightly elevated above the water level.

 

While building huts, muskrats harvest wetland vegetation in a radius around the structure. By opening the dense canopies of cattail and bulrush stands, muskrats create a patchwork of open and closed vegetation across the wetland. This increases the diversity of plants and animals that inhabit the wetland, which is why the muskrat is considered a keystone species and an ecosystem engineer.

 

 

Under the cover of winter ice, muskrats consume the roots and tubers of wetland plants. In order to breathe, muskrats maintain channels with breathing holes through the ice.


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