Monday, December 31, 2007

Lemmings

Howdy, Critter lovers!

How are you this December 31st? R and I are unsure of our party status as he is in the midst of a cold, and I am recovering from the same one.

To facilitate healing, yesterday I made a pot roast in our new dutch oven! It was a Christmas present from R.

DSCN3066.JPG

These veggies look beautiful in the pot, I think:

DSCN3068.JPG

We also watched an episode of the show,"Be the Creature", which was previously mentioned on the Critter Corner. The Kratt Brothers were profiling the relationship between Ethiopian wolves (red with upright ears, super cute!) and burrowing rats.

I thought, "What cute rodent have I yet to feature on the Critter Corner?" And it became apparent. One of the rarest rodents in Minnesota is the bog lemming! So here we go.

boglemming1.jpg
So cute!

Lemmings, along with muskrats and voles are part of the subfamily Arvicolinae, which in turn is a member of the superfamily Muroidea, which with its members rats, gerbils, hamsters and mice is the largest mammalian family on Earth.

These fuzzy rodents weigh around one to four ounces and are three to six inches long from snout to tail. Lemming ears and tails are smaller than most other rodents, possibly due to their northerly range.

There are populations of lemmings throughout the northern hemisphere, and they are famous for their rapidly fluctuating populations. Norway especially is home to lemmings that will cycle between numbers in the thousands to near extinction. Scientists are unsure why. Another possible misconception is that the number of lemmings predict the number of predators, wolves for example. But now researchers think the opposite might be true.

lemming.jpg

Lemmings do jump off of cliffs, but this action is not a mass suicide. Rather, the lemmings migrate in huge groups once a region become overpopulated. These travels sometime require swimming, so lemmings may jump off a ledge in order to get into the water to swim to another location. This may lead to some fatalities, of course.

In Minnesota there is a small population of bog lemmings. These live in the far northern reaches of the state, including habitats in Itasca, Lake of the Woods, Roseau and Koochiching counties.

minnesota-county-map.gif

Apparently there are two types of bog lemmings in Minnesota, the northern and southern species. One of my sources says the southern bog lemming has six nipples compared to the eight mammary glands of the northern bog lemming. But the MN DNR site says the species cannot be identified with the naked eye.

Bog lemmings moved north as the most recent glaciers retreated, about 10,000 years ago. The former lemming populations in Kansas and Nebraska are now extinct, but populations exist from Washington state east to Maine.

Like other rodents, lemmings eat plants and roots, ingesting tough material to wear down their continually growing teeth. The northern bog lemming also eats slugs and snails, and prefers an environment that is open and wet. Considered an animal of special concern in Minnesota due to loss of wetlands, one place to spot a lemming is at the Big Bog Wildlife Preserve.

Side Note: R, I really want to go to this giant bog! Let's camp up there!

Lemmings follow animal trails to find food, and make their own, tunneling through undergrowth or making snow tunnels like voles. They are active day and night.

lemming3.JPG
Mur!

These rodents have two to three litters of babies per year. Four to six tiny lemmings are born each time, and the Mama can become pregnant again the day after she gives birth. After five to six weeks, the babies are sexually mature too. It seems lemmings live in colonies, and often don't survive for more than a year.

lemming2.jpg
A babykin lemming.

Fun fact: The collared lemming is the only rodent to completely turn white in the winter. They are residents of Canada and Alaska.

Have any of you ever seen a lemming?! Any critter sightings today? I hope you all celebrate safely tonight!

xoxoxo
I love lemmings,
Wendell!

1 comment:

Ms. Non Sequitur said...

I want a lemming. Am I daft or is there a saying that if something is bad it's a lemming? I know...people say it's a Lemon, but I feel like they say lemming too...hmmm. It's F'in COLD OUT.

Bunny hugs,
G