Thanks, I Just Had It Stuffed

Tired of Chain ‘O Lakes birding posts yet? Fine, let’s shake it up a bit and feature something different, something unlike the other recent posts. Today I bring you a post from the birding outing that my brother Ron and I took at Chain ‘O Lakes. Ummm, maybe that doesn’t completely fit the definition of different.  Yes, it is another post from the Chain, but this time it isn’t about a bird.  Nope, today’s featured subject happens to be an animal I’ve never seen in the wild before.
Beaver at the Chain O' Lakes State Park

Now I’ve seen a lot of Muskrats in my day and one might think those are Beavers if they have never seen one before.  They live in a similar environment and kind of look alike from a brown furry animal that swims in the water perspective but to be honest, you can tell the difference pretty quickly in the field.  First off, the Muskrat has a skinny “rat” tail compared to the paddle the Beaver sports.  Although relative sizes are tough to judge when you don’t have both animals close by, the swimming rat is significantly smaller than the Beaver.  I didn’t realize exactly how much until Ron and I stumbled on this one swimming in a remote part of the Fox River that cuts through the Chain O’ Lakes park.  Quite surprisingly, it could care less that we were even there – some of that may be the fact there was another one – possibly the mate – that was cruising through the water ahead of it – note, I have NO idea how to tell the sexes apart based on the angles we had.  None of them ever made it onto land so these are the best looks you are going to get.  I can bring you in closer though!

Beaver at the Chain O' Lakes State Park

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of this Beaver

Continue reading Thanks, I Just Had It Stuffed

An Unwelcome Visitor

About a month ago I was down in the woods cleaning up some brush and downed branches/trees while waiting for the weather to break so I can finish up my bridge work.  At one point something caught my eye swimming in the stream.  Rarely is there anything actually living in the water beyond minnows and tadpoles so it somewhat startled me.  I slowly crept up on it so I could get a better view of this creature.  Based on the fact it was still cold out (so definitely accustomed to the water and not just taking a dip), somewhat brownish fur and flattened facial features I figured it was a beaver.  For the next 15 minutes I watched the critter playing in the water and thinking to myself how cool this was since I had never seen a beaver in the wild (there is your opening, cue the classic beaver jokes!).  It would swim out to the middle, do some back strokes, dive under the ice and pretty much entertain himself (or herself I guess) the entire time.  Disappointed, I did not have my camera with me I eventually went in for a closer look.  It spotted me and dove under the ice not to be seen again.  After patience ran out, I gathered my stuff and headed back to the house thinking how cool that was but with a slight nagging feeling that something didn’t seem right.  As the critter dove under the ice its tail flipped out of the water and it seemed long and thin as opposed to the mexpected paddle.   After some mental gyrations, I decided it was probably due to being a juvenile and the tail comes in later or it was an otter which would make it an even a cooler experience.

The fact there was no picture of the sighting eventually bothered me so much I put my mud clothes on again and headed out with the camera.  As luck would have it, it was out playing again.

So, what does it look like to you?  … Beaver?  … Otter?  If you look close you can see the thinner than expected tail extending out to the bank.  It also seemed a little too furry for an Otter, but it has been a cold winter and wasn’t sure if they fluffed up for the winter.

Any guesses yet, or have you figured it out yet (in which case you were able to come to conclusion significantly faster than I did).  How about another view.

I’ll break the suspense and tell you it is a Muskrat.  Thanks to a colleague at work that is familiar with these creatures and was able to quickly discern what it was based on my brief description.  Turns out he traps these because they are BAD NEWS for rivers/streams.  Apparently, they dig deep into the banks to make their dwellings.  This results in destruction to the bank and causes serious damage especially when it comes to dams and dikes (assuming those jokes are still flashing through your conscious).  I can tell you for a fact I a) did not know what this animal was and b) never seen one before.  This prompted an immediate surf to Wikipedia.  Sure enough, the picture there perfectly matched my specimen.  Interesting enough, they are a rodent, but not part of the Rat genus.

hit the jump to see some other pictures I took

Continue reading An Unwelcome Visitor