A new benefit of muskrats

You heard it here first fellow swimming rodent fans — muskrats eat phragmites! Do not know what phragmites is. Below is a picture of a wetland overwhelmed by this plant species that is turning many wetlands into devastated monocultures.

According to the Phragmites Management Sourcebook submitted to Hudsonia,

“It has been stated or implied that Phragmites is little-used as food by native animals in North America (e.g., Marks et al. 1994). Rhizomes, culm bases, and young shoots of Phragmites are eaten by common muskrat and probably by American beaver. Phragmites marshes in the Hackensack Meadowlands often support substantial muskrat populations (Kiviat, pers. obs.). Young shoots are eaten by cottontail (Richard Casagrande, Yale University, pers. comm.).”

As the report notes, coming to the rescue are muskrats, as well as beavers and cottontail rabbits. Those lovable (to Eco-dude – me), furry, little marsh managers that pond owners often despise are a partial solution to a major environmental problem. Unfortunately, hunters like muskrats too, but maybe we need to rethink the hunting and varmint removal of muskrats considering the new benefits derived from them.

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