Musk beavers, Marsh hares
The muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) is a medium-sized semiaquatic rodent native to North America. It lives in wetlands over a wide range of climates and habitats. It has important effects on the ecology of wetlands and is a resource of food and fur for humans. The muskrat is the largest species in the subfamily Arvicolinae, which includes 142 other species of rodents, mostly voles, and lemmings. Muskrats are referred to as "rats" in a general sense because they are medium-sized rodents with an adaptable lifestyle and an omnivorous diet. They are not, however, members of the genus Rattus. They are not closely related to beavers, with which they share habitat and general appearance.
Crepuscular animals are those that are active primarily during twilight (that is, the periods of dawn and dusk). This is distinguished from diurnal...
Nocturnality is an animal behavior characterized by being active during the night and sleeping during the day. The common adjective is "nocturnal",...
A herbivore is an animal anatomically and physiologically adapted to eating plant material, for example, foliage, for the main component of its die...
Altricial animals are those species whose newly hatched or born young are relatively immobile. They lack hair or down, are not able to obtain food ...
A territory is a sociographical area that which an animal consistently defends against the conspecific competition (or, occasionally, against anima...
Among animals, viviparity is the development of the embryo inside the body of the parent. The term 'viviparity' and its adjective form 'viviparous'...
A burrow is a hole or tunnel excavated into the ground by an animal to create a space suitable for habitation, temporary refuge, or as a byproduct ...
Semiaquatic animals are those that are primarily or partly terrestrial but that spend a large amount of time swimming or otherwise occupied in wate...
Polygynandry is a mating system in which both males and females have multiple mating partners during a breeding season.
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
Muskrats are covered with short, thick fur, which is medium to dark brown or black in color, with the belly a bit lighter (countershaded); as the animal ages, it turns partly gray. The fur has two layers, which provide protection from cold water. They have long tails covered with scales rather than hair. To aid in swimming, their tails are slightly flattened vertically, a shape that is unique to them. When they walk on land, their tails drag on the ground, which makes their tracks easy to recognize. Muskrats can close off their ears to keep water out. Their hind feet are webbed and are their main means of propulsion. Their tail functions as a rudder, controlling the direction they swim in.
Muskrats are found in North America and Eurasia. North American population occurs from the northern parts of the continent southwards to the Gulf coast, reaching the Mexican border. They mostly inhabit wetlands, areas in or near saline and freshwater wetlands, rivers, lakes, streams, or ponds.
Muskrats live in large social units, which are family groups. Each group has its own home range. Sometimes, when the territory is too small for the group, females will drive their young away. However, even in cases if fighting and cannibalism take place, the group doesn't disperse but remains united. Muskrat families build nests to protect themselves and their young from cold and predators. In streams, ponds, or lakes, muskrats burrow into the bank with an underwater entrance. These entrances are 6-8 in (15-20 cm) wide. In marshes, push-ups are constructed from vegetation and mud. These push-ups are up to 3 ft (91 cm) in height. In snowy areas, they keep the openings to their push-ups closed by plugging them with vegetation, which they replace every day. Some muskrat push-ups are swept away in spring floods and have to be replaced each year. These rodents are most active at night or near dawn and dusk. Although slow on land, muskrats are known to be excellent swimmers. Moreover, when diving, they are capable of remaining submerged for as long as 12-17 minutes at a time. They use musk as the primary form of communication as well as a warning to outsiders. Muskrats also associate through vocalizations, including squeaks and squeals. Quick temperature changes, combined with dry and hot weather negatively affect these animals.
Muskrats are primarily herbivorous. Their diet generally consists of cattails, sedges, rushes, water lilies, pondweeds, and other aquatic vegetation. Depending on geographical location, muskrats may also consume occasional clams, mussels, snails, crayfish, small fish, and frogs.
Muskrats are polygynandrous (promiscuous) animals: this is when both males and females have multiple mates. Muskrats mate between March and August. During the mating season, males compete for their mating rights. The gestation period lasts for less than a month, yielding 5-10 young. Females may produce up to 3 litters per season, usually every month. Although newborn muskrats are blind, helpless, and lack fur, they grow up very quickly. By one week old, their skin exhibits thin fur. By 2 weeks old, the young open their eyes. Muskrats begin venturing from the den at 2-3 weeks old, typically taking short trips before returning to the den. They are weaned at 3 weeks old, and gaining independence at 6 weeks old. The age of reproductive maturity is 1 year old.
Most of the threats to the muskrats' population have to do with human activities. These animals are commonly trapped for their pelts that have high commercial value worldwide. In areas where these rodents are abundant, they negatively affect the environment, often causing habitat destruction. Thus, due to their burrowing habits, muskrats occasionally damage river banks. Furthermore, because of over-consumption, they reduce the amount of aquatic vegetation. For these and other reasons, muskrats are hunted and poisoned throughout their range as a pest species.
According to IUCN, the Muskrat is abundant and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) and its numbers are stable.
Muskrats are a key prey species for local predators. In addition, their populations naturally cycle; in areas where they become abundant, muskrats are capable of removing much of the vegetation in wetlands. They are thought to play a major role in determining the vegetation of prairie wetlands in particular. They also selectively remove preferred plant species, thereby changing the abundance of plant species in many kinds of wetlands. Muskrats also build feeding platforms in wetlands; they help maintain open areas in marshes, which helps to provide habitat for aquatic birds.
Social animals are those animals that interact highly with other animals, usually of their own species (conspecifics), to the point of having a rec...