Muskrats (Ondatra Zibethicus)
spend most of their lives living a semi-aquatic existence. Marshes, ponds and streams filled with cattails and other favored vegetation such as water lilies, pondweeds, wild rice and pickerelweed are almost guaranteed to hold healthy populations of this omnivorous rodent.
Telltale signs of muskrats inhabiting these biomes include dozens of small domed houses constructed of mud, small sticks and vegetation. Though the muskrat is famous for this unique structure, closely resembling a small beaver lodge, they also inhabit burrows dug into the banks of the water bodies in which they are living.
Evolution has provided the muskrat with the unique ability to close off its ears to keep out water and they can hold their breath underwater for approximately 15 minutes. A scaly laterally pressed tail and partially-webbed hind feet make them efficient swimmers and well adapted to watery environments.
Including its 9-inch tail, an average adult muskrat is 20 inches long and weighs up to about 5 pounds.
A muskrat’s body is primarily reddish or dark brown while its underbelly is a lighter brown to gray brown on more mature animals.
Predominantly nocturnal, muskrat activity peaks at night, when the cover of darkness best protects them from their many natural predators, such as birds of prey, otter and mink.
Prolific breeders, muskrats are capable of producing two to three litters of 6-8 young each every spring and summer. Breeding begins in April and young are born only a month later, after a gestation period of only 30 days.
Muskrat young called “kits” and grow amazingly fast, able to live on their own in a little over one month.
The soft and warm pelts of muskrats remain a valued commodity in the fur trade. The Maine trapping season for muskrat runs statewide from the end of October till the end of December.
Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. What are muskrat young called?
2. How long can a muskrat hold its breath underwater?
3. Counting its tail, how long is a mature muskrat?
4. How old does a muskrat have to be before it can live on its own in the wild?
5. Are muskrats omnivores, carnivores or herbivores?
6. How long is the muskrat gestation period?
7. How many litters do muskrats typically have in a year?
8. When is the trapping season on muskrats?
Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. Muskrat young are called kits.
2. A muskrat can hold its breath underwater for approximately 15 minutes.
3. Counting its tail, a mature muskrat is approximately 20 inches long.
4. A muskrat only needs to be about a month old before it can live on its own.
5. Muskrats are omnivores as their diet is comprised of both plants and small creatures such as frogs, crayfish and baby turtles.
6. The muskrat gestation period is only 30 days.
7. Muskrats typically have two to three litters of 6-8 young every spring and summer.
8. The muskrat trapping season runs statewide from October until the end of December.