SAM Participates in Muskrat Surveys
In the fall, SAM staff participated in a muskrat distribution and population survey in and around the St. John's and Corner Brook areas. The surveys are being led by the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources, Wildlife Division.
There has been some concern by trappers in Newfoundland that the muskrat population has been declining, and in some areas disappearing from their historic range. To better understand this potential decline, more needs to be known about the distribution and abundance of muskrat on the island. The provincial government is collecting distribution and abundance data over the next 10 years.
|Muskrat swimming through a wetland.|
Photo By D. Gordon E. Robertson - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6454083
|Muskrats are interesting mammals that are well adapted to life in the wetlands.|
Muskrat, Ondatra zibethicus, is native to North America and is one of the 14 native mammals on the island portion on the province. They are a medium sized semi-aquatic rodent about 40 - 70 cm long, with half of that being their long, vertically flattened tail. Despite their name, they are not part of the family of rats (Rattus), they are actually more closely related to voles and lemmings.
They live in wetlands, ponds, and lakes, and their thick two-layered coat keeps them warm, they can close their ears to keep water out, and their long flattened tail propels them through wetlands and waterways. Even though they have the appearance of a small beaver, their bodies are much like those of seals and whales because they are less sensitive to the buildup of carbon dioxide. This allows them to stay under water for up to 17 minutes.
This amazing breath holding ability is told in several indigenous creation stories, when the muskrat dives to the bottom of the ocean to bring up the mud from which the earth is created, after other animals were not able to complete the task.
|A muskrat trail or path through aquatic vegetation along the shore of a pond in St. John's.|
|They are considered one of the most valuable fur-bearers, and continue to be the most harvested pelt in North America. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have used muskrat fur on their winter hats because of the pelts excellent warmth during the cold Canadian winters. They are also an important prey source for other species in Newfoundland including lynx, fox, coyotes, mink, eagles, and owls.|
|A muskrat burrow at the edge of a pond, in St. John's.|
|Surveyors participating in the project look for clues of muskrat presence in wetlands. These clues include paths through vegetation, burrows in the soft banks of a pond, muskrat houses of piled reeds and cattails, and scat. These clues are recorded along with types of plant species, and average water depth. With this information surveyors are able to estimate abundance in a wetland, pond or lake.|
Have questions about this Department of Fisheries and Land Resources initiative? Email us to find out more.
SAM Network News & Updates
- SAM Conservation Fund Scholarship Application is Online the 2020 scholarship deadline is May 1st, 2020. The $1000 scholarship recognizes a student from Newfoundland and Labrador that has a passion for environmental conservation and stewardship work in their community. For more info on how to apply visit our website
- Apply for Funding Looking to get your next environmental stewardship project off the ground in your community? Visit our Apply for Funding page and you will find over 50 potential funding grants. Need help? Email us for more info.
World Wetlands Day 2020: Plan your event
It is never to early to plan for World Wetlands Day 2020 in your community, and SAM
are making it easy.
World Wetlands Day is celebrated on February 2nd each year and this years theme is wetlands and biodiversity. It is a day to raise global awareness about the vital role wetlands play for people and our planet. It also marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on wetlands in 1971
Wetlands in Newfoundland and Labrador provide habitat for many species of plants, animals and birds.This years theme is a great opportunity to celebrate the biodiversity of wetlands in our province.
|Take the steps and get involved this year in the global celebration.|
|The City of Corner Brook and SAM celebrating World Wetlands Day 2019 with a snowshoe in Hughes Brook.|
|First, visit the Ramsar Website and learn more about this years theme, wetlands and biodiversity. Also, take time to visit the SAM website to learn about local wetland conservation and find educational resources that are specific to Newfoundland and Labrador. |
|Secondly, make a plan to participate in the global celebration. You can get involved as an event organizer, educator or participant.|
Here are a few ideas of how you and your municipality can get involved.
Organize an event:
- Organize a family fun day at a community or science center
- Hold an exhibition to show case art or photography about wetland biodiversity
- Organize a community walk, run, or snowshoe for wetlands
- Host a trivia night about wetland biodiversity in NL
Raise public awareness:
- Share the outreach materials from Ramsar and SAM
- Write a blog or article for your local newspaper
- Bake wetland themed cupcakes for your local school, office, or community group
Teachers, guide/scout & youth group leaders can organize a classroom discussion:
- Discuss how wetlands naturally help us cope with climate change
- Discuss why wetlands continue to be degraded around the world and how we can stop loss
- Organize a quiz about the different types of wetlands and their services
|Finally, you can download the World Wetlands Day Ramsar graphics for free. Remember to post your event on social media and use the hashtags #WorldWetlandsDay #WetlandBiodiversityMatters. Remember to send along your event to SAM staff and we can help promote it to our other members.|
Happy World Wetlands Day planning! If you need any assistance in getting your idea off the ground send us an email.
2019 Stewardship Anniversaries