Muskrat or Ondatra zibethicus
Size : They weigh between 0.6 to 2 kg. This is much smaller than a beaver, which they are sometimes confused with in the wild. When you see them swimming the easiest way to tell them apart is their tails. A muskrat will usually have its ‘rat-like’ thin tail trailing behind it in the water. You won’t usually see the beaver’s tail unless it slaps it on the water!
Habitat : They are semiaquatic rodents and are well adapted to the water. They can close their ears to keep out water and their hind feet are semi-webbed. In the winter they live in ‘push-ups’ in marshes made of plants and mud. These can be up to 3 ft high. In contrast a beaver’s lodge is made mostly of sticks and could be a lot larger and up to 5 ft high.
Diet : They are omnivorous and eat a wide variety of aquatic plants and small animals e.g. mussels and frogs.
Native/non-native: Native to North America.
Status : Not threatened in the Ottawa River watershed.
Fun Fact : Muskrat fur was important to native Canadians and the RCMP winter hats are still made of muskrat fur.