Friday, June 1, 2012
WILDLIFE AND HUMANS
This WATERWORKS column by Gordon Prickett is written for the Outdoors Section of the June 6th 2012 Aitkin Independent Age. Around the lake where we live there has been trouble with what DNR-Wildlife refers to as “Nuisance Species.” Whole patches of rushes have been chewed off and then pulled up by the roots and consumed. Muskrats. Recently a neighbor’s pontoon had it’s fuel line chewed on just before they tried to motor it over to the public access for winter storage. Stories are told of wiring on pontoons being gnawed by critters at the waters edge. Again the destruction was caused by muskrats. Several years ago we had a population explosion of beavers. New beaver families built lodges and began felling trees on the loon nesting island. Shoreline maples and oaks were girdled as these skilled loggers and builders expanded their colony. Thanks to an experienced trapper, who took twenty beaver in one open trapping season between late October and mid-May, we were able to restore balance in our habitat. The mature hardwoods along the shore are no longer threatened. We are studying how to deal with the growing number of muskrats all around the lake. Information from the DNR tells us that an adult female may have two or three litters in a summer, with as many as ten young per litter. In marshes they build domed houses with mud and vegetation, but in our lake they have tunneled into dens on banks. Predators of muskrats may include mink, otters, eagles, foxes, and racoons. Fairly soon I expect you can add our skilled trapper to this list. WHEN BOATS NEED LIGHTING Most of our boating is during daylight hours, but as we launch our boats after a winter of storage, it’s important to get ready for early and late outings. Be sure to test the navigation lights; the sockets and wiring may have corroded, like mine! A stern (rear) white light must be visible from all directions (360 degree circle). Red and green bow (front) lights shine red to port (left side) and green to starboard (right side). The combination of red and green covers an arc of 225 degrees ahead of the boat. Each light is seen from directly ahead to a point 22.5 degrees to the rear of the beam (midpoint of the boat) on each side. Boats must be lighted from sunset to sunrise, so today, June 6th, navigational lights must be on before sunrise at 5:27 am, and shining again after sunset at 8:57 pm. These times may be found at the back of the current Minnesota Boating Guide published by the DNR.