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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

MORE SMALL MAMMAL ACTION

Continuing our theme from yesterday:

Last week Noah and I were walking at Crown Hill Park in Wheat Ridge, around the big lake.  On the north side, we saw a little varmint rummaging in the grass alongside of the path.  It was a muskrat, foraging.

I've of course seen many muskrats in the water, and even some around the banks of streams and ponds, but I'd never seen one sitting out there in the open like that (in the wild, that is; see "Muskrat/Love," in King-Cat Classix.).



We walked up slowly, and looked at it.  It didn't show the slightest interest in us as we approached, and simply continued rooting around in the dry grass.  Finally we ended up a few feet from it.  I squatted down to get a closer look.  It was very furry, with fine, brown hair, that as the wind blew, was revealed to be a dark grey underneath.  It had long claws, big back feet, and yellow teeth; a snake-like tail.



We stood and watched it for a long time.  I'd say I got as close as eighteen inches from it.  Once or twice it kind of glanced at us, but never for more than an instant, and it never showed any fear of us.  Even when people walked past with their dogs it showed no concern.

As we stood there, not wanting to leave, people would come up to us:  "What is that?"  "It's a muskrat..." I'd say.  "But I've never seen one out in the open like this, and one that was so unafraid of people..."  The onlookers would say "Ah...", and move on, to be replaced by a new batch a few minutes later--  "What is that?"  After awhile we felt like docents at the zoo.

One young urban professional  lady came up and asked about it.  When I said, "I've never seen one so unafraid of people." She said "Maybe it's sick..." and took an unconscious step backwards.  "Doesn't look sick..." I said.

When I was a kid growing up in suburban Chicago, my friends and I were terrified of muskrats.  Why, I'm not sure.  They seemed like potential trouble, I guess.  Anyhow, it was nice to see one so close up.

PS:

4 comments:

  1. John, have you ever read A Sand County Almanac? If not, I recommend it. I think you would love it. It has become a holy text to me.

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  2. Birds,

    Yes, I love Sand County Almanac. I came to it through Edward Abbey's books back in the '90s. I especially appreciated the midwestern focus to it. A beautiful book!

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  3. I also grew up in suburban Chicago, in a subdivision bisected by a wide creek - and like you, I was afraid of the muskrats my friends and I would sometimes encounter on our nature adventures. They seemed...prehistoric.

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  4. muskrats are fearless. I must be as the muskrat

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