Blackwater National Wildlife RefugeA Tail of Two RodentsBlackwater National Wildlife Refuge is home to the muskrat and, until recently, the nutria, both members of the rodent family. The muskrat is native to the area while the nutria was introduced from South America in the 1940s to expand the fur industry. Larger and more aggressive, the nutria out-competed the muskrat for resources.
Water Loving Rodent Historically, the muskrat has played an important role in the marsh. By grazing on vegetation, it helped to maintain open areas, providing habitat for waterbirds and other wildlife. Its population is kept in check by predators.
Muskrat *name comes from the musk like odor it emits *an excellent swimmer *uses its vertically flattened tail to steer through the water *folds of skin seal off its inner ear when underwater *typically weighs no more than 2 ½ pounds *eats roots, stems, and shoots of cattails and sedges *uses marsh plants to build its dome-shaped lodge *serves as prey for larger mammals
Marsh Nuisance Originally valued for its fur, the nutria is now considered a pest. Over time, its population exploded due to increasingly milder winters, less demand for pelts, and a lack of natural predators. After destroying several thousand acres of Blackwater River marsh, large numbers of nutria were eradicated from the refuge.
Nutria *consumes nearly ¼ its weight each day! *has destructive eating and burrowing habits *prolific breeder *resembles a beaver but with a rat-like tail *can weigh up to 20 pounds *dines primarily on the roots of marsh vegetation *no natural predators in Maryland * burrows in banks, under roads, and into muskrat lodges.
In 2002, a partnership of federal, state, and private organizations began a pilot project to eradicate the nutria. With the help of professional wildlife specialists, a systematic trapping and hunting program essentially eliminated the species from Blackwater NWR by 2006. The same techniques are being used today, with the goal of eradicating nutria populations across the Delmarva peninsula by 2014.
|Marker Condition||No reports yet|
|Date Added||Friday, November 28th, 2014 at 9:04am PST -08:00|
|UTM (WGS84 Datum)||18S E 404652 N 4254923|
|Decimal Degrees||38.43750000, -76.09250000|
|Degrees and Decimal Minutes||N 38° 26.25', W 76° 5.55'|
|Degrees, Minutes and Seconds||38° 26' 15" N, 76° 5' 33" W|
|Driving Directions||Google Maps|
|Area Code(s)||410, 443|
|Closest Postal Address||At or near Observation Access Rd, Cambridge MD 21613, US|
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