Muskrat

 

Muskrats (Ondatra zibethica) can be found throughout all of the Lower 48 except for the extreme southeastern states. Leonard and I can find them paddling about in their preferred habitat, fresh and saltwater marshes and shallow waterways, in every season. Although muskrats spend most of their time in and around the water, occasionally they make long overland journeys. I believe muskrats are searching for new territory when they undertake these treks.

A rodent, muskrats have fur on their upper side that is a dark uniform brown with long, darker hairs protruding. Their underparts are gray. There are no seasonal changes in the fur. The tail is vertically flattened, scaled and sparingly hairy. The flattened tail and partially webbed hind feet make the muskrat an adept swimmer. With their short ears and round bodies, I think muskrats are rather charming.

One usually sees muskrats swimming with their heads sticking above the water like a wedge. Less frequently the body and tail are visible as they swim. I was fascinated by the muskrat pictured swimming because his tail was erect and totally out of the water – unusual.

Muskrats eat plant material and shellfish such as freshwater mussels and clams. They also will take small aquatic animals. The two muskrats sitting on the log were eating aquatic plants. They would finish one stem then dive and return with another plant to eat.

With a 29 day gestation period, a female muskrat will have three litters per summer with the last litter usually being the largest.

Muskrat fur, since these animals are easily available in the wild, is widely used. Efforts to commercially raise muskrats have generally not been successful. Muskrat fur is about half as durable as otter fur.

The pictures were taken on the Pit River near Baum Lake (eating) and Lower Hat Creek (swimming).

Muskrats utilize different types of houses – tomorrow’s post!

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2 Responses to Muskrat

  1. usermattw says:

    Uh-oh. I have a certain “Captain and Tennille” song stuck in my head now. 🙂

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