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Natural Curiosities

moles near lake . . . lake acres . . . circling fish . . . turtle observations . . . squirreled away . . . drumming logs

We have a mole problem in our yard, which is close to the lakeshore. From what I'm told, moles go where the food is (such as grubs). The local nursery recommended I use an insecticide to remove their food. Easier said than done if lakeshore owners are to be mindful of products that could enter the lake. Kids play in the area, so I don't want to use traps. Other options?

Tom Barrett
Little Canada

We're glad to hear you're being cautious about what chemicals you use near the lake. DNR wildlife educator Jan Welsh agrees that an insecticide is probably not the best choice in your situation. One good option would be to naturalize the area with native grasses, wildflowers, and other plants. That not only would make it less friendly for moles, but it would also make it more friendly for the lake -- and you would have beautiful habitat right outside your window. You can get more information on that at If you really want to keep the area as lawn and get rid of the moles, Welsh suggests a harpoon trap. Learn more about trapping moles.

How many acres does a body of water have to be in order to be classified as a legal lake in Minnesota? We own a bog lake (pond) that is around 5 acres in size. All around the edge is floating bog. Would this also be considered in the size of a lake? If this is a lake, how do we go about trying to name it?

Jeff Brown

According to DNR hydrologist Jim Solstad, a lake is defined broadly as an open, deep body of water, big enough to have wave-swept shores. DNR considers anything over 10 acres to be a lake. Naming a lake involves a petition by residents. The DNR has more information on both defining and naming lakes.

I was watching the lake the day after Thanksgiving when I noticed some movement on the almost perfectly calm water. I looked through my spotting scope and saw large fish swimming in circles. They swam on the surface for an hour or so. What kind of fish were they?

D.J. Goihl

Jim Lilienthal, recently retired Little Falls area fisheries supervisor, says that if the fish you were watching were less than 18 inches or so, you were probably seeing northern cisco (tullibee), which often feed on the surface this way. If they were over 18 inches, they were probably carp.

While fishing in Wisconsin I caught a painted turtle with a net. It was missing a part of its tail. What could have caused this? How long do painted turtles live? The turtle had two leeches stuck to the top of its shell. Can leeches suck blood through the shell? One of the leeches had hundreds of tiny worms on its underside. Were they baby leeches?

Gus Kramer

A northern pike or other predator could have bitten the turtle's tail. And scientists think that leeches can suck blood from the shell of at least some kinds of turtles. DNR herpetologist Carol Hall says that mark-recapture studies have found that painted turtles can live into their 30s, possibly much longer.

DNR aquatic education specialist Roland Sigurdson says most leeches attach a hard-cased, egg-filled cocoon to a surface. Those that do carry their hatchlings don't feed them blood. The little creatures could also have been trematodes, which are wormlike parasites. Most leeches live less than one year.

I see squirrels burying nuts in the fall. Won't the snow make it difficult to dig up the nuts?

Shawn Corbett

Squirrels scatter cache nuts and find them later by smell, says DNR assistant regional wildlife manager Bob Welsh. They typically find them in late winter and spring when ground conditions allow. The ones they don't find might grow into trees.

I enjoy the spring rituals of grouse, including the sounds of the ruffed grouse drumming. Do ruffed grouse use the same log or spot to drum on all spring?

Kevin Collison
Forest Lake

Within his territory, a male ruffed grouse usually has one log he uses for performing his drumming display, says DNR grouse expert Mike Larson, though he may have secondary logs he uses less frequently. If he survives from one spring to the next, a male ruffed grouse will often use the same log(s).

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