Ondatra zibethica
Family Cricetidae

* Fur dense, rich brown, with coarse guard hairs. Belly silvery.
* Tail naked, scaly, black, flattened on the sides, 8-11".
* Head and body length: 10-14".

Natural History:
* Habitat: Marshes, pond edges, lakes, streams, in cattails, open water. Builds conical houses, 2-3' above water, out of marsh vegetation, mud, cattails, and other nearby materials. The houses are built in shallow water and have underwater entrances and tunnels. Muskrats also make burrows and dens in pond and lake banks.
* Range: Throughout most of the United States and Canada.
* Behavior: Muskrats feed on vegetation, clams, frogs, fish, and other small animals. They mate in spring and summer in the north and in the winter in the south.
* Lifespan: 3 - 4 years.
* Native.

* Predators of the muskrat include man, minks, large snakes, great horned owls, river otters, and large-mouth bass. Muskrat fur is harvested by humans.

* Muskrats build throughout the year. Besides working on their unique homes, they build 'feeder huts' and 'breather huts' in the winter. The 'feeders' are huts used for eating without disturbance from predators, consisting of a roofed circular platform made of aquatic plants. The 'breathers', also called 'pushups', are made when the muskrat cuts a hole in the ice and pushes mud and sticks up through it, creating an under-ice hollow.

* Muskrats are considered pests by the owners of small reservoirs, since the animals can severely weaken the dams that sustain the reservoir.

* Look for muskrats around Paramecium Pond; they can be seen swimming or grazing in the grass at the pond's edge.

Approved by NR


Created by: Niki Zhou and Carla Holleran
Maintained by: Nick Rodenhouse
Created: June 25, 2004
Last Modified: August 7, 2004
Expries: June 1, 2005