Wascana Lake home to many critters including muskrats and migratory birds

·3 min read

If you think geese and ducks are the only wildlife to see at Wascana Park in Regina, you'd be surprised.

The park is home to many different critters — from migratory birds who are passing through, to rabbits preparing for the first snowfall.

One critter you can spot at Wascana Lake is the muskrat. Ecologist for the Wascana Centre Authority Sarah Romuld said muskrats normally pop up on warmer days around thawed and open water areas.

"Sometimes we refer to them as hibernators but they are actually still active, they just kind of stay underwater and in their homes as protection," Romuld said.

She said the muskrats are currently preparing for the winter months, much like beavers. Romuld said at this time the critters are finalizing their lodges and stocking up on food.

"They tend to have a thicker coat, a fat body reserve that would keep them warm," Romuld said, "They tend to still be feeding and foraging for food but they're moving at a slower pace."

She said her favourite thing about these little rodents is their size.

"They look so cute," Romuld said, "I find they're very curious so while we're out by the water or on the water and we're doing some surveys, you frequently see them swimming just under you or by you.

"They kind of come up, they look at you and quickly duck down into the water but I think it's their little toothy grin that just gets me."

Migratory birds

Romuld said she had noticed something peculiar about muskrats and the swarms of migratory birds at the lake.

"We were seeing a couple of muskrats perched up on the ice just beside tundra swans and geese," She said. "Their interaction I think would be a positive one, they cohabit nicely."

The birds and muskrats share the same habitat as the muskrats, who build their homes into the shorelines.

Sarah Romuld/Submitted
Sarah Romuld/Submitted

Romuld said people will still be seeing Canada geese and some ducks through the winter months in Wascana Park.

"In the west lake we have various aerators that help improve the water quality and increase the dissolved oxygen in the water," she said.

Romuld said this helps maintain the insect and fish habitat as well as creating thin ice and open water for birds to feed throughout the winter. She said because the geese and ducks have down feathers, they are able to tolerate colder temperatures.

She said since Wascana Lake falls along a common migratory route, it isn't uncommon to see unique birds rest in Regina, even if only for a couple of hours.

"We also have the snowy owl and the northern shrike," Romuld said. "The snowy owl to me is like that winter staple."

She said the snowy owls start making their way south for the winter months because there's more resources for them.

"Believe it or not there's actually some [birds] that come from even further north and they're migrating to us as their winter destination."