The low water levels on area lakes and rivers this summer have not had a dramatic impact on another important natural resource—wildlife.
“We haven’t found much yet in terms of negative impact on wildlife, such as ducks or beavers,” said Darryl McLeod, area biologist with the Ministry of Natural Resources here.
But some species will be affected in the next few months if the trend in rainfall continues.
“If species that spawn in the late fall, such as whitefish and lake herring, have to deal with low lake levels, they will have to choose a lower quality habitat to spawn in and that will affect their spawning success,” he explained.
“As far as wildlife goes, we’re looking more at the future,” he added. “This coming winter will be important for finding out if water levels will have an impact on species next spring.”
And aquatic fur bearers, like beaver and muskrat, store their food under the ice in winter. “If the lake is frozen at a low level, this will affect their food supply and their access to it,” McLeod noted.
Low water levels in early spring also could affect the fish population by affecting the spawning substrate, leading to a reduced number of offspring to such species as northern pike and walleye. This would affect the food chain in Rainy Lake.
By keeping a close eye on the environment, the MNR will try to predict the future of local wildlife. But ultimately, the fate of several species lies with something no one can control—the weather.