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Muskrat
  • Because of its abundance, the muskrat is a valuable furbearing animal. Its thick, soft, brownish-gray pelt is prized internationally for making elegant fur garments. Garments with the label "river mink" or "water mink" are made from the pelts of this large aquatic rodent.
  • The muskrat is well-adapted to aquatic life. Its hind feet are slightly webbed. Stiff hairs between the hind toes help the muskrat paddle through the water. A flattened, scaly tail serves as a rudder.
  • The muskrat thrives in marshy areas where cattail, bur reed, and other aquatic plants are available throughout the year. Muskrats are found throughout the United States in streams, ponds, and drainage ditches.
  • The muskrat makes a crude house out of mud and plants piled loosely together in a large mound. These houses have two or more underwater entrances. The floor of the house is usually the marsh or pond bottom, old root clumps, or submerged logs. The house may reach from 6 to 8 feet wide and from 2 to 4 feet high.
  • Muskrats also live in bank dens along suitable water. Bank dens usually have only one underwater entrance.
  • Most house and den building occurs in mid-autumn.
  • In addition to houses, muskrats sometimes build "feeding rafts" out of piles of plant stems. They sit on these rafts to eat their food.
Muskrat map
Muskrat Range
Muskrat tracks
Muskrat Tracks

Muskrat Facts

  • Mating: generally monogamous; sometimes considered polygamous.
  • Breeding period: varies by region.
  • Gestation period: 22 to 30 days.
  • Birth period: litters usually born in March through early September; birth rate peaks in May.
  • Litters per year: usually 2; occasionally 3.
  • Number of young: 3 to 9 per litter; average 6.
  • Age females can breed: approximately 10 months.
  • Adult weight: normally 2 to 3 pounds.
  • Life expectancy: average 2 years.
  • Feeding time: generally feed at night; often during the day.
  • Movement: rarely forage more than 100 to 200 yards from their house; known to move 1/4 to 2 miles or more to a new location if local food supply runs out.
  • Typical foods: stems, roots, bulbs, and foliage of aquatic plants such as cattail, bur reed, blue-joint, needle-grass, water lily, pond weed, and sedges; other foods of minor importance include corn, fish, freshwater mussels, insects, crayfish, and snails.