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Season 1, Episode 4 · 4 years ago

Episode 104 - No Muskrat Love, Part 1


This is under the lowbridge and unconventional history of the Erie Canal. In honor the two hundredth anniversary of its construction, the history department at the University of Rochester presents six environmental stories. And you're listening to here. You are, oh bridge, everybody down. I'm Henry Shark, I'M K Cristello and I'm Miklabrel, and you're listening to part four. No, Muskrat love. Imagine it's one thousand eight hundred and seventy one. The bustle of commerce and progress fills the air and the quaint little town of fairport in New York, nestled about nine miles east of Rochester, everything this quaint little town seems peace one, calm. But then, out of nowhere, five hundred ten foot section of the mighty barge calls given way water streams through the town, surrounding farms with brute force, leaving destruction in its wake. The corporate was not human...

...error and not sabotaged by angry labors. So who could have caused such a catastrophe? Muskrats, the cute furry beaverlooking little rodents. You know, they actually aren't that cute. Henry they look like the clump of hair that collects in your shower drain. Well, that's gross. Okay, we aren't going to agree on whether or not muskrats are cute, but that's not what matters here. Kyle, you're telling me these things are capable of destroying a canal. Well, mckayla, you're the expert here after all. What can you tell us about them? First of all, it doesn't do justice for me to just say that they aren't cute, they're disgusting. The term muskrat actually comes from the musk land that is at the base of their tails. They secrete a foul smelling fluid from this gland to mark their territory. Charming exactly. So, as I was saying, muskrats can be found in slow moving water ways such as a stream or a canal. Yep, and if you...

...have a canal, your chances of obtaining a Muskrat are pretty high. Apparently, they're naturally pretty curious and not suspicious of human behavior, so they wouldn't necessarily be scared off by humans building a canal in their habitat. But they're still just big rats, right. What's so bad about having muskrats? New yor canal. Well, the issue comes from how a Muskrat lives. MUSKRATS are natural ecosystem architects. If you destroy or alter their habitat, like building a canal through it, they'll try to reshape it back into something they like. I mean, that makes sense. How do you feel as someone started building a highway between your kitchen and living room? So what exactly does this mean for the environment? MUSKRATS are keystone species. This means the other species in an ecosystem, in this case a river, depend upon the Muskrat and the Muskrat relies heavily upon the ecosystem. If a Muskrat's way of life is changed, then the entire ecosystem will change to if something weird is going on with the Muskrats, then something weird must be going on in the ecosystem.

Well, how's this always been the case? I can't help but wonder why are these muskrats where they are? Why are there even so many of them? In order to understand MUSKRATS, it's important to understand the fur trade. As I mentioned before, muskrats are naturally curious critters and they aren't super wary of human activity. This makes them well, clubable. They're ugly, but I don't think they should die because of that. You know what I'm actually serting to feel kind of bad for these guys. Well, bad news from muskrats is good news for fur trappers. On top of being easy to catch, muskrats are also somewhat easy to skin. You make a few cuts, peel gently and you have a Muskrat pelt. This made it so that basically anyone in the eighteen hundreds through the mid nineteen hundreds who wanted to be a Muskrat trapper could pretty much figure it out without any training. MUSKRATS can even be farmed in a sense. As long as you put them in the right environment, such as wet ones along a canal, and give them sufficient food,...

...they'll reproduce like nobody's business. Looks like Muskrat now, around the time of the one thousand eight hundred and seventy one collapse, the world Muskrat market consisted of a yearly harvest of about two point five million holds a year. This may sound like a lot, but the market didn't reach its peak until the S and S. we're about ten million pelts were sold annually. That said, according to some sources, muskrats have historically been the most widely distributed furbearing animals in the eastern us. So they're pretty much everywhere, even places you wouldn't necessarily expect. Apparently you can find Muskrat dens in every single borough in New York City today also. They may look on assuming, but muskrats are actually pretty aggressive. A Boston Globe article from one thousand eight hundred and ninety seven describes a group of muskrats that attacked a man after being driven out...

...of their den by a nearby house fire. The poor guy ended up having to fight off and run away from fifteen muskrats. All right, all right, so we've established them muskrats are aggressive and that they were pretty much ubiquitous in the late eighteen hundreds and that they have some serious geoengineering capabilities. The most importantly, they also have serious destructive capabilities. Just ask the town of Fair Port, New York. This episode was made possible by the generous support of several departments at the University of Rochester, for here you are, Keem. Would like to thank Melissa Mead and the Department of are books and special collections. Lair Tinker and the digital scholarship lab, Stephen Restner at the Department of Audio Music Engineering and last been not least, the Department of History Bridge.

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