Many other animals besides birds
and deer make their homes on the Conservancy.
However, very little research has been carried out, so that
knowledge is limited.
Animals are mobile and do not heed property lines. Pleasant
Valley Conservancy is situated in a highly wooded area where
there is little real estate development. Probably no more
than 10% of the land in the Valley is under agriculture, and
the unfarmed and wooded land provides good habitat for wild
Of the larger animals, coyotes and foxes are common, which,
when trapping was permitted, were occasionally caught.
Beaver (Castor canadensis), a semi-aquatic
animal, is nocturnal and hence rarely seen, but its activities
are easy to spot. The usual situation is that the beavers
move in, dam Pleasant Valley or East Blue Mounds Creek, cut
and eat small trees until they have exhausted their food supply,
and then move on. We have seen at least three "waves"
of beaver activity during the past 25 years, followed by quiet
periods. The photo below, taken in February 2007, gives an
idea of the impressive "logging" that these creatures
can carry out. The second photo shows the dam they have created
at the outlet of the creeklet that passes through Pleasant
Valley Conservancy. Even though this dam is small, it is holding
back a lot of water because of the critical place it is located..
When beavers are present, they cause significant changes
in the hydrology of the wetland, altering stream flow and
flooding the bottom land. Sedge meadows may change into cattail
marshes, and then recover once the beaver are gone. Although
beaver activities may flood a wetland and affect plant populations,
this flooding has positive benefits for waterfowl. In recent
years, perhaps as a result of beaver flooding, in addition
to sandhill cranes, Canada geese have begun nesting on our
At one time the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
attempted to remove beaver dams from East Blue Mounds Creek
with dynamite. However, current policy is to only remove beaver
dams where trout stream protection is the highest priority.
Our area is in Beaver Control Zone C, where beaver populations
are considered low to moderate and the management goal is
to maintain a stable population.
Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) is
a medium-sized semi-aquatic rodent which is widespread in
our wetland. Like beaver, muskrat are primarily nocturnal,
although they may occasionally be seen swimming during the
daytime. Muskrat can easily be distinguished from beaver by
the tail. The beaver has a wide fan-like tail, while the muskrat
has a long rat-like tail.
At one time, muskrat lodges were quite common at Pleasant
Valley, but due to changes in hydrology as the result of beaver
activity, they have mostly been flooded out. Muskrat continue
to thrive in the wetland, however, burrowing into the stream
banks, where they form extensive tunnel systems. Muskrat "houses"
always have an underground entrance, although the house itself
is of course above water level. When trapping was permitted
at Pleasant Valley, a local trapper often took 25-50 muskrat
pelts in a winter. Muskrat trapping is strictly regulated
by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
The wetland abounds with frogs and turtles, but no information
is available on kinds or abundances.
Snakes Large snakes are often seen, the
most common being the eastern fox snake (Pantherophis
gloydi). We often find fox snakes in the cabin that we
use as a field station, where they make a living catching
mice. As many as three large fox snakes have been seen in
the cabin at the same time, draped across the upper shelves.
Although the rock outcrops on the south-facing slope would
seem to be ideal rattlesnake habitat, no rattlers have ever