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    Pond Management: What are those furry creatures in my pond?

    by: SOLitude Lake Management   |   Jan 16, 2014

    By J. Wesley Allen, Environmental Scientist

    The Muskrat and North American Beaver have adapted to the increasing number of stormwater ponds and facilities, and can cause huge headaches if not recognized and controlled.

    Muskrats are small dark brown to black aquatic rodents (16-24 in., 1.3-4.4 lbs.) that live in ponds and wetlands throughout most of the United States and Canada, feeding on the aquatic vegetation found there. Muskrats are prolific breeders and can have two to three litters of up to eight young per litter every year. Muskrats were once trapped extensively for their fur, but reduction of trapping and predator numbers have allowed muskrat populations to remain strong, even with the loss of wetland habitat.

    muscratbThe muskrat has moved into many stormwater ponds, wetlands, and facilities. They can seriously damage these areas by burrowing into embankments, leading to massive erosion and even pond/facility failure. They can also eat installed and beneficial wetland plants. Because they breed prolifically, the population can quickly become destructive. They are active mainly at dawn or dusk, but burrows in the embankment near the water and disappearing aquatic vegetation are indicators of muskrats. There are very few preventative measures to keep muskrats from your pond, but keeping cattail populations under control can reduce the risk. Trapping is the best method to control muskrat populations.

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    Topics: Nature's Creatures, Nuisance Wildlife Control

    Goose Chase: Methods for Effective Goose Control

    by: SOLitude Lake Management   |   Jul 10, 2013

    By Greg Blackham, Aquatic Specialist 

    Goose ChaseResident Canada geese populations in North America are estimated at 4 million. Chances are that they have found your community pond. Even more likely is that the residents of your community consider them to be a nuisance — they can be aggressive, cause unsanitary conditions, and destroy property at a rapid rate. Their numbers have grown at an incredible pace over the last few decades and they are becoming a widespread problem in urban and suburban areas. Don’t get me wrong… I love geese, but they are not a great fit for ponds in developed areas.

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    Topics: Nature's Creatures

    Lake Wildlife: Winter Waterfowl

    by: SOLitude Lake Management   |   Jan 20, 2013

    By Shannon Junior, Aquatic Ecologist

    describe the image
    Common Loon nonbreeding plumage
    Most of us pay close attention to our ponds and lakes during the summer months. Whether we are fishing, boating, or simply walking the dog along the shoreline, it is usually during the warm part of the year that we spend time appreciating our aquatic resources. As the weather turns colder, most of us move indoors and enjoy our ponds from afar. While some of us do truly appreciate the simple beauty of an ice-covered pond, even if only admired from the window, there are many opportunities for winter excitement as well. There are certain species of waterfowl that can only be seen in our area during the winter, and your pond may be a stopping point along their journey.

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    Topics: Nature's Creatures

    The Amazing American Eel

    by: Tracy King   |   Oct 05, 2012

    Written by Gavin Ferris, Ecologist

    american eelRecently, while surveying some ponds and canals that feed into a tidal inland bay, I noticed some small slender creatures swimming about. They were no more than three inches long, and swam with whip-like bodies that wiggled about as fast as anything I’ve ever seen. They were young eels, probably tiny females though science isn’t sure about that yet, making their way upstream after what can only be described as an incredible journey.

    The American Eel (and it’s very similar European cousin) is one of the most remarkable fish in the world. While many fish species like Salmon and Shad swim into freshwater to breed and live the rest of their lives in the ocean, these eels do the exact opposite. Eels, the females at least, swim up our rivers at a young age, then live in fresh water for 10-30 years. We used to think that male eels never left coastal areas, but now we think that population density might drive sex determination. In short, we don’t know what causes an eel to be male or female.  We do know that females can reach lengths in excess of five feet, while males rarely reach past three. We also do not know what triggers an eel to decide it’s time to breed, as some do this at less than ten years of age while others remain in our rivers until they are above thirty, but we do know what happens when they do.

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    Topics: Nature's Creatures

    Helping Ducks Stay Healthy

    by: SOLitude Lake Management   |   May 09, 2012

    By Industry Expert Gavin Ferris, Ecologist

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    I spent a lot of my childhood near a lake, and there was always a bag or two of stale bread on hand ready to be fed to the mallard ducks that swam expectantly past our dock.  Who hasn’t experienced the pure joy of feeding ducks?  Unfortunately, it turns out we aren’t doing the ducks much of a favor by tossing bread and crackers to them. 

    For one thing, bread and crackers are to birds what donuts and chips are to people: junk food.  The carbohydrates are a good source of energy, but with little nutritional value, and while an occasional piece of bread here and a saltine cracker there does little harm, if too much of a duck’s diet comes to consist of these handouts from people, they can gain too much weight and have trouble flying.  This makes it difficult for them to migrate naturally, and can make it harder for them to avoid predators. 

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    Topics: Nature's Creatures

    What's that Snake in the Water?

    by: SOLitude Lake Management   |   Dec 15, 2011

    Written by Industry Expert, Shannon Junior, Aquatic Ecologist

    Comparison for Snake articleBack in the days when I worked for a pond construction company, one of my crew members told me that he needed some help identifying a snake that they had found on the job site. He said it was a water snake, and thought it was a cottonmouth. I asked if he had taken pictures of it, but instead he presented me a burlap bag with the snake inside. Its head was smashed, and its body had been neatly cut into several pieces with the blade of a shovel. As an ecologist and lover of wildlife, the site of the demolished snake left me heartbroken and speechless. It was a large, beautiful and HARMLESS northern watersnake. All I could think of to say was, “That is NOT the way to identify a snake!”

    This case of mistaken identity is not unusual. There are some very vague similarities in coloration and pattern between northern watersnakes (Nerodia sipedon) and cottonmouths (Agkistrodon piscivorus), and they also somewhat resemble copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix). However, when seen side-by-side, the snakes do not actually look that similar. And unlike cottonmouths and copperheads, Northern watersnakes are non-venomous and harmless to humans if left alone. Unfortunately, though, misidentification results in more watersnakes being killed each year than venomous snakes.

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    Topics: Nature's Creatures

    Turtle Jacking

    by: SOLitude Lake Management   |   Dec 07, 2011

    By Ethan Chappell, Aquatic Specialist

    describe the imageHow many times have you driven up on someone that is trying to move a turtle off the roadway? Typically in the spring and early summer months, turtles take to the road, quite literally in some cases. Bound by ancient forces far too simple for us to understand, these predecessors to the dinosaurs pack up and go. Sometimes we put things in their way. They don’t care. Risking everything for the sake of reproduction is ‘do or die’ for our reptilian neighbors. As if on a compass bearing they will march straight to their destination or their destruction whichever comes first. That’s where we come in.

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    Topics: Nature's Creatures

    Freshwater Jellyfish? Not Quite.

    by: SOLitude Lake Management   |   Sep 28, 2011

    describe the imageHave you ever seen some of these guys in your pond? Don't be alarmed, they won't hurt you. While they do not look all that pleasant, they are actually helping the pond.

    These creatures are known as bryozoans, or moss animals. Masses the size of the ones pictured are actually a colonies of thousands or possibly millions of these tiny organisms. While present in most ponds, these creatures thrive in eutrophic waters, or waters that have plenty of nutrients in them. They are filter feeders, constantly removing nutrients from the water. If you notice that your water quality is good and unusually clear, these may be the reason why. If they start to disappear, it could mean that your pond does not have enough nutrients to support them, but too many nutrients and you could see some the size of basketballs.

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    Topics: Water Quality/Nutrient Remediation, Nature's Creatures

    Getting to Know Your Local Turtles

    by: SOLitude Lake Management   |   Aug 07, 2009

    By Shannon Junior, Aquatic Ecologist

    Eastern_Box_Turtle_Rescue2_Newark_DE_Gavin_Wes_06.14_cDuring a visit to a pond last fall, I noticed a man and several small children leaning over a cardboard box at the edge of the water. As I approached, I noticed a brightly colored brown and yellow turtle crawling out of the box. I watched with a combination of amusement and horror as the man prodded the turtle with a stick towards the pond. They had rescued the turtle out of the road near their house, and had rushed it over to the pond to return it to its “natural” habitat. But what he apparently did not realize was that the turtle was not an aquatic turtle, but an Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina). While these turtles may venture down to the water for a drink or a quick dip, they generally do not swim, and prefer forested or grassland habitats.

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    Topics: Nature's Creatures