Muskrat

Scientific Name:

Ondatra zibethica

Type:

Mammal

Habitat:

Lakes and ponds, wetlands, and swampy areas

Range:

Common across much of North America

Status:

Least Concern (IUCN Red List)

This species is

NATIVE

to the Truckee Meadows.

Identification:

Muskrats are often mistaken for beavers at first glance because they are brown, furry, semi-aquatic mammals found in wetlands and swampy areas. However, muskrats are smaller, only 10 to 14 inches in length (plus a tail of 6 to 8 inches) and only weigh 2 to 4 pounds. Muskrat tails look more like a rat tail as they are long, scaly and cylindrical instead of flat like beaver tails. Muskrats also have a musky smell. While muskrats will commonly build their homes from mounds of cattails and rushes, they are also known to burrow into the side of banks of ponds and lakes. In addition to using aquatic vegetation to build their homes, the diet of muskrats is mostly aquatic vegetation and occasionally shrimp, frogs, and small fish.

Fast Facts:

  • Muskrats are known as the original “marsh managers” as they eat and utilize cattails, thus creating open spaces for waterfowl to swim and forage.

  • The home of a muskrat is referred to as a “pushup,” a heap of vegetation and mud built from the bottom up.

  • How long can you hold your breath? Muskrats can stay submerged for up to 15 minutes while foraging on the muddy bottom gnawing on roots and stems.

  • Here in the Truckee Meadows, muskrats have regularly been spotted in South Meadows wetlands.

Sources:

Contributor(s):

Regina Hockett (research & content)

Alex Shahbazi (edits & page design)

Last Updated:

June 17, 2021, 9:03:43 PM