I am often grateful for the predator who lives near my garden, as I credit him or her with keeping rabbits out.
I have not known who this predator is, but I have so far thought of it as the protector of the garden who lives on rabbits and baby ducks and teals. Those baby teals disappeared, all 10 in one night, only a few days after I watched them frolicking in the pond all day. That was indeed very sad, but the price one pays for a safe garden.
Well, on Thursday we got to experience the predator firsthand, including photo evidence. My parents were visiting from Illinois and my father is quite the nature photographer. He has a photo feature, “Sink’s Shots,” in his town’s weekly paper. This means he always has his camera with him and since he was visiting us on the prairie, I knew he would be hoping for a good wildlife photo.
Shortly after they arrived, my parents and Steve went out and were sitting on the dock on the small pond near the house (and garden). While they sat there, a mink came out of the brush, slinked into the pond, and in no time at all came up with a baby muskrat in its mouth. My father fumbled for his camera but missed the shot.
After depositing the muskrat at its nest, somewhere up the bank, the mink was back, moving around the edge of the pond and then going back in for another baby muskrat. This time my father was ready and got the photo of the mink, albeit blurry, with the muskrat in its mouth.
That’s when I arrived home from work and was hurried out to watch the action. The parent muskrats seem to have fled the scene immediately, leaving their babies. The kids had dispersed into the pond, four of them, and were in different regions lying on the surface perfectly still, their tails curling up like reeds. It seems their only defense is camouflage.
Sure enough, the mink returned; although we were only a few feet from him and talking loudly, he didn’t seem to care at all about our presence. During the interlude, the mother muskrat had also reappeared, swam around the pond, got up on the log trying to look intimidating, jumped back in and swam away.
This time the mink swam around, seemed to be hunting, but gave up shortly. There’s always another day. When we looked out later the mama muskrat was keeping watch from the log.
Mink are vicious animals and live everywhere in Minnesota with no natural predators. I’m no great fan of muskrats, but was ready to get a .22 and shoot it myself after watching the scene.
Hey. Circle of life. And my dad could relax, having gotten his shot.