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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

What’s under the ice?

For the majority of the long, frigid, Minnesota winter, Lyman Lakes and the Cannon River freeze over, and layers of snow cover the frozen lake. As a result, it may seem like the lakes are dormant and in a stagnant state, but that is certainly not the case. While there are animals that hibernate or migrate south throughout the winter, many aquatic and semi-aquatic species stay active despite the harsh conditions. 

For example, the muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) remains active throughout the winter. Muskrats inhabit the Cannon River year-round and make burrows or lodges similar to those created by beavers. During the winter, muskrats take shelter in these lodges but continue to venture out and forage for food. On the contrary, beavers (Castor canadensis) also inhabit the Cannon River, as well as Lyman Lakes, but store food for the winter. They also forage, and their trails can be seen in the snow on the banks of the Cannon River. 

Fish are also active during the winter, although less so than during other seasons. Because warm water sinks in cold freshwater, fish will often follow this water in the winter and rest in deeper parts of the lake throughout the winter (NOAA). Fish also try to conserve energy during the winter by moving and eating less. Another aquatic animal that stays active during the winter are mussels. Mussels continue to breathe and feed throughout the winter, providing vital services to the Cannon. Mussels often bury themselves in the winter, possibly to protect themselves from dropping temperatures (Allegany College). 

While we may not be able to see life in Lyman Lakes or the Cannon River right now (or even the water itself), there is life teeming below the surface of the ice!

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