Photo provided: The high water has meant an increased muskrat population in the area.

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No love for muskrats in OTC

Published 10:54am Friday, April 22, 2011 Updated 10:54am Friday, April 22, 2011

Muskrats are causing some damage to township roads and private roads in Otter Tail County, other parts of Minnesota and in other areas of the Midwest. One of those areas is near West McDonald Lake in northeastern Otter Tail County.

“I plan to place rocks along the banks of the road, near my lake home,” said Dave Satter, who lives on the lake, near Dent. “It’s a bad thing when roads give way, because of harm done by the muskrats.”

A large population of muskrats, which are cyclical, and high water levels are at the root of the problem. Muskrats seeking high ground near roadways will dig and tunnel with destructive results.

“Muskrats disburse when the ice goes out,” said DNR Area Wildlife Supervisor Don Schultz. “People in Fergus Falls, area towns and rural areas are seeing muskrats in window wells and other places. They can be aggressive when they feel cornered. Our advice is to leave them alone, since the muskrats will probably leave during nighttime hours.”

Schultz said that many people are seeing muskrats when driving along Interstate 94, between Fergus Falls and Sauk Centre.

Muskrats, like most rodents, multiply quickly. They burrow into lake, pond and marsh banks and hollow out a chamber underground, yet above the waterline. Anytime the waterline rises, the rodents dig further in and up.

With the muskrats doing their damage, soon the shoreline develops sinkholes. An entire bank can give way, caving in from the simple weight of gravity.

“And that’s what we don’t want to see, whether here at West McDonald Lake or other places,” said Satter. “My neighbors and I feel we’ve got the problem pretty much under control, in our area.”

In many areas of Minnesota, township, county and municipal authorities have been asked to remove muskrats in specific areas where roads and other infrastructure are being damaged. In turn, many officials are seeking help from conservation officers, wildlife damage specialists and other experts.

Working through regional governmental offices often shortens the process and allows local authorities to more quickly address muskrat problems.

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