A few weeks ago, I put out some potatoes at the edge of a couple of my frog ponds hoping to lure in a muskrat so I could get some video. I set up some reconyx game cameras that have infrared lighting that the animals can not see. When they are triggered, they take 30 seconds of video. I was getting a fair amount of video of raccoons, possums, and one of our barn cats, but no muskrat. I knew they had been there earlier in the summer. I had seen them, but not caught them on video. Something ate most of the vegetation around the ponds and there were lots of burrows consistent with muskrat burrows, but none of the cameras caught a muskrat over the summer.
A couple of weeks ago, I got some video of a weasel-like animal. I submitted the video to the Missouri Department of Conservation and they told me it was a mink. I have been trying to get more mink video without much luck. I could see the mink in the background of some of the video triggered by raccoons, but was not getting any quality video of the mink itself. Tonight, I retrieved my SD cards and started looking through video. I thought this was rather interesting. In this video, you can see a fox approaching what I assume is the mink. It jumps in the water and swims to the opposite shore. The fox approaches it and this time the mink stands its ground and lets out a warning scream. Unfortunately, the video ends and there is no more video following this. I hope that the mink survived.
I have some theories or speculation. I am thinking this might be a female mink and that she might have a den on the shore of this little pond. It may just be wishful thinking on my part, but here is my logic… As I was reading about minks, the males tend to have large territories and they may roam over several miles and not spend much time in one location. The females, on the other hand, tend to have relatively small territories. Mating occurs January through April. Babies (kits) are apparently born either in April or June. An average litter size is 4 kits. Weaning occurs at about 5 weeks of age and they start hunting on their own at about 8 weeks of age. They stay close to their mother until the Fall. So, my theory is that this is a female because I see her on video many nights in a row. She did not put up any resistance to the fox in one location, but stood her ground in another. I am thinking that might mean the fox was getting near a den or one of the young kits. I will keep trying to get video. I may be completely off base, but I am hopeful I might have the beginnings of a mink family. Mink apparently do not pair bond and the male mates then is out of the picture.
I did eventually get some video of the muskrat. I accidentally deleted one of the videos. The first video (that I deleted) shows it chewing on one of two potatoes and taking it a short distance into the pond and apparently burying it. In this second video, the muskrat pulls the second potato near the water, leaves it, retrieves the first potato and swims off with it. This would appear to be a dangerous neighborhood for the muskrat. Minks eat muskrats. I assume a fox would eat a muskrat too.
I am amazed at how much wildlife there is using a fairly small area of ponds. I am trying to create varying habitat on my farm. I did not have any wetland areas, so I decided to start digging small frog ponds. My thought was, that if I had enough frog ponds in close proximity, that this would be an approximation of a wetland. Below is an aerial snapshot of the pond area. The older ponds look darker, the newer ponds still look muddy. It is a work in progress.