One evening, as naturalist Annie Dillard stood beside a creek near her home, she spotted a creature in the water. Only its head poked above the surface as the animal swam smoothly along. Dillard knew instantly what it was—a muskrat!

As soon as she moved, the animal dove and disappeared into a clump of plants along the shoreline. "I waited panting, and watched the shadowed bank," the naturalist wrote in her journal. "Now I know that I cannot outwait a muskrat who knows I am there."

Still, Dillard was motivated. She went out many more times to find and quietly watch muskrats. She often enjoyed watching her wild neighbors at work.

You might wonder why Dillard was so fascinated with muskrats. After all, they aren't rare. These small mammals can be found across most of the United States and Canada, including marshes, ponds, and streams all over Minnesota. "The great hurrah about wild animals is that they exist at all," Dillard explained. "And the greater hurrah is the actual moment of seeing them."

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