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High Muskrat population to blame for low water level in Rec pond

Trapping to begin Nov. 4

Published: Monday, Oct. 2, 2017 10:31 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Oct. 2, 2017 10:58 a.m. CDT
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(Mike Mendenhall/Daily News)
City leaders say Muskrats are to blame for a slow leak in the clay lining of Jerold “Jake” Williams Pond at the Prairie City Recreational Complex. Muskrats are the aquatic version of cottontail rabbit. Their population runs in cycles, having two to four litters of young per year. In the food chain, Muskrats serve as prey to mink, otters, hawks, owls and coyotes.

“Life finds a way.” The little furry rodents may not be as menacing as the T-Rex at Jurassic Park, but city officials say Muskrats are to blame for the low water levels at Jerold “Jake” Williams Pond at the Prairie City Recreational Complex.

The semi-aquatic mammals are cutting the pond’s clay liner causing it to drain, police chief and city manger Joe Bartello said.

“We believe the Muskrat dens have been created by burrowing through the clay liner in the pond, ultimately causing the pond to leak,” he wrote in a Sept. 15 public safety notice on the city’s website. “Our architect and engineers are working to provide the city with possible solutions to repair the damage.”

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Muskrats are the aquatic version of a cottontail rabbit. Their population runs in cycles, having two to four litters of young per year. In the food chain Muskrats serve as prey to mink, otters, hawks, owls and coyotes.

Muskrats primarily use emergent vegetation —plants that grow up out of the water — to build their huts.

The animal’s pelt is also considered semi-precious, and the state of Iowa has a trapping season for the animal from Nov. 4 through Jan. 31. The city council has contracted with Webster City-based Tim’s Trapping and Wildlife Solutions to get the population under control.

Bartello said the city has found at least 12 Muskrat dens and believes there are more below the pond bed. Trapping will begin in conjunction with the season. The city will post signs cautioning park users about the traps, but Bartello said if a curious person or child sees a trap, do not approach. Muskrats do have sharp claws used for burrowing and could scratch a human if provoked.

Muskrat overpopulation on Iowa wetlands is not a new problem. In January, the IDNR extended the trapping season through April 1 of this year at Ventura Marsh near Clear Lake to preserve the aquatic vegetation.

Contact Mike Mendenhall at mmendenhall@newtondailynews.com

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