Muskrat (J. Pickering)

Most people think a muskrat is a beaver or very closely related but it is actually more closely related to a field mouse! Just picture the muskrat as a large mouse that is a great swimmer and spends most of his time in the waters of marshy areas. Muskrats dig dens in the sides of ponds and construct rounded structures made of cattails in the water. Cattails are also a common food source along with clams, frogs and occasionally fish. How old do you think muskrats live to be? They only live on average 1-2 years but may live up to the ripe old age of 4! They may have five to ten kits in a litter and up to three litters in a spring season. Muskrats can be 50 cm long with 25cm of that full length being their rat-like tail. A muskrat can actually eat under water without drowning because of special teeth that protrude from the closed mouth which doesn’t allow water in. Named the muskrat because of two special musk glans that produce a strong smelling secretion believed to be used to communicate among each other. A muskrat is a common sighting in many ponds, creeks, and at the edges of marshy bays or lakes. The muskrat’s habitat ranges across all of North America and for that reason has one of the largest ranges of all North American mammals. The building of canals has increased habitat in some areas but the more common draining of wetlands like marshes and ponds has exterminated local populations in some areas where development is occurring. Keep an eye out for these semi-aquatic field mice that may call a pond near you home!

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