What a beast - muskrat


Muskrat is a commercial hunting species of mammals. Valued by its durable sandpaper. Meat is also edible. In some countries, it is even served on the table as a delicious dish. The rodent is very prolific and well acclimatized in the new environment. When uncontrolled, the muskrat damages agricultural land and becomes a carrier of diseases that are dangerous to humans and domestic animals. The photo and description will help to detect and catch the beast, as well as to understand how safe its meat is.

Description and characteristics of the animal

The genus of muskrats belongs to the vole subfamily. This semi-aquatic rodent was brought to Eurasia from North America, where it was widely distributed. Other names are the musk rat and the water rabbit. Muskrat adapted for cultivation in private farms. In the wild form, it builds housing in the form of burrows and surface “huts” in small ponds; it also produces food there. The animal harms agricultural irrigation facilities.

Attention! The life span of a muskrat in captivity is up to 10 years. In nature, the rodent lives no longer than 3.

The characteristics of the muskrat are adapted by evolution for successful movement under water:

  • the body is dense, with a short neck,
  • torso length - 23-36 cm,
  • hind legs have swimming membranes,
  • the tail is covered with sparse hairs and scales, has a small comb of elongated hairs on the lower part,
  • tail length - up to 28 cm,

  • head stupid, small in relation to the body,
  • the eyes are small, the ears are almost entirely hidden in the fur,
  • the jaw is adapted for feeding under water,
  • weight - 1-1.5 kg, up to a maximum of 1.8 kg.

Commercial value of musk rat

Fur - the main property of the muskrat. It consists of soft undercoat and hard guard hair. The color uniformly goes from dark brown or even black on the back and legs to light shades of the abdomen. In summer, the whole body becomes lighter. Rodent fur is thick and fluffy, has a high water resistance.

Muskrat skins are in demand among manufacturers of fur coats, winter hats, collars and other items of clothing. The material is similar to expensive types of fur, with light and warm. The main disadvantage is that such clothes will not be durable. By the 4th-5th season, the hairs will begin to fall out massively, the skins will rub and lose their decorative appearance. But there are still a lot of people who want to wear muskrat fur coats. The cost of such items of clothing is several times less than that of elite counterparts, so mods simply replace a worn hat or fur coat with a new one.

Musky rat in cooking

There may be a bias against the nutritional qualities of the muskrat. In fact, this animal is not dirty and has little resemblance with its distant smaller relatives - ordinary rats and mice. Cleanliness is manifested not only in relation to the fur:

  1. The muskrat is adapted to eat almost entirely vegetable food.
  2. Animal food in the diet of the species - mollusks, insects, small fish and in any case not waste or carrion.

The meat of this mammal is similar in taste to rabbit and duck. In the preparation of a fairly standard types of heat treatment. But before sending the muskrat to the stove or in the oven, it is important to properly remove mussels near the canal glands. They secrete a fetid liquid that will spoil the taste of the finished meat.

Council Do not be upset if you have prepared a rodent with glands. The situation will correct soaking meat in several waters for 3-5 hours.

Muskrat meat is considered to be dietary, with all the resulting list of useful qualities. Well absorbed by the human body and fat. True, it has a low melting point and melts without a trace by the end of normal cooking. Separately, fat is not used in cooking, but is used for medicinal rubbing.

Water Rabbit Hunt

Under conditions of a private household, muskrats are grown in spacious enclosures, cages or in fenced ponds. Rodents are unpretentious to food. They are quite diverse plant foods. Animal breeding on the skins is considered a profitable business.

It is legal to hunt a muskrat all year round. In the spring and almost the entire warm period, it molts, and the most high-quality fur is obtained in winter. The semi-aquatic rodent is caught in traps or shot from weapons. It is quite simple to do this, as the animal is slow and vigilant. Muskrat has many natural enemies among forest, aquatic inhabitants and even birds. This factor limits the population of the musk rat, despite its high fecundity, the rapid development of the young and the ability to adapt to new climatic conditions.

The water rabbit shows little on the eyes in the daytime. The optimal time for hunting is night. True, in the spring during the mating season the beast can be found during the day. The musk rat is an amazing animal, unlike any other rodent. Breeding and hunting on it are profitable affairs. In addition, the muskrat can be a tasty and unusual dietary dish on your table.


Homeland of this small mammal is the territory of North America from Alaska to the northern regions of Mexico. At the beginning of the last century, the animals came to Europe, where they got accustomed perfectly. Today, the habitat of muskrats makes up the entire European territory of Russia, the northern and central regions of Europe, Siberia and the forest-steppe to Yakutia and Korea. The southernmost population lives along the rivers of Israel. For life, animals have chosen low-flowing rivers, peat pits, lakes and forest ponds, wetlands. Most of the time animals spend in the water, getting to the land for food for the winter. Under water, an animal can stay up to 15 minutes without breathing. Such a long time is due to the special composition of the blood - in animals, an elevated hemoglobin content in the blood and myoglobin in the muscles.

The animal is most active during morning and evening twilight. They do not see well and have a poorly developed sense of smell, but a very sensitive ear.

Muskrats feed on various plants:

  • Reed
  • Reed
  • Sedge
  • Horsetail
  • Crops,
  • Leaves and twigs of shrubs,
  • Roots.

In addition to plant food, they eat river mollusks, small fish, frogs.

Muskrats are territorial animals. Each family lives in a certain area, the boundaries of which the males mark with a special secretion secreted from the inguinal glands. The animal lives in the burrows, which digs on the banks or in the huts, which are built according to the example of beaver huts from branches, roots, grass, silt. The entrance to the dwelling is always located under water for greater security of the dwelling. The height of the hut can reach one and a half meters and have several separate sections for food storage. Mink animal equips also with several sections. The length of the moves can be up to ten meters.

In places where a very large population of muskrats lives, numerous huts cause serious damage to the irrigation system.

In nature, the life of a fur animal is a maximum of 3-4 years. In captivity, they are able to live up to 10-12 years. The difference is due not only to the abundance of food at home, but also the lack of predators. By natural enemies include:

In the cold and snowy winters, muskrat minks can destroy wild boars in search of light food. The most dangerous predator for the muskrat is the mink.

Muskrat Appearance

The appearance of a muskrat is very similar to the appearance of a gray rat. The average weight is about 1.5 kilograms, and the maximum can reach up to 2 kilograms. The length of the body of an adult individual varies from 20 to 35 cm. The animal has a long tail, the length of which can be 10-15 cm. There is no difference in size between males and females. The animals have a short neck and a plump body. Thick fur is provided to the body, not subcutaneous fat. The skull of a muskrat is very similar to the skull of a rat, has pronounced jaws and a flat forehead. The muzzle of the animal is long, with high-set eyes and small ears. The tail of the animal is flat, with sparse hair. Short paws have small membranes between the fingers.

The muskrat fur is short and thick, very dense. These qualities do not allow him to get wet with a long stay in the water.

Animals have a short and very soft, dense undercoat. The color of the muskrat is different shades of brown with an abundance of red and black hair. The abdomen of the animal is much lighter than the back hair of the back. Meanwhile, the muskrat looks like in winter and in summer there is a big difference. The winter coat of the animal is much thicker, the fur is darker and more shiny. Summer skin seems more red, fur loose.


Muskrats reach sexual maturity at the age of seven to ten months. Pregnancy in females lasts about 32-33 days and ends with the birth of seven or eight pups. The first litter the female brings in the beginning of spring. In the northern regions, the couple breeds only twice, and in the southern regions the number of litters can reach up to five. In the southern regions of the breeding season lasts all year round. This is due to a sufficient amount of food and a warmer climate. At first, the female does not leave the nest. staying all the time with their offspring. The male brings food for the whole family. The weight of newborn babies is about 25 grams. They feed on mother's milk for the first two months, but already at the age of three weeks they begin to eat plants and roots.

Cubs always spend the first winter together with their parents, and only in the spring they go in search of free territory and establish their own dwellings.

Water rat

The closest relative of the muskrat is the water rat. The animal has a more rounded body and a shortened muzzle. The weight of a water rat depends on the time of year and the conditions of feeding, but on average it is about 200 - 300 grams with a body length of up to 25 cm. It prefers to settle near water bodies and on wetlands. With the advent of cold weather, the animal gets closer to the human dwelling - they can live in basements and sheds, garages, and even in residential buildings.

Muskrat and nutria belong to the same family and for a non-specialist look very similar. However, the difference between the species is large: the coypus is much larger, it has a large head with rather small eyes and ears. A short muzzle ends with a long and tough mustache. The weight of the nutria can reach up to ten kilograms with a body length of up to a meter. Outwardly, the coypus swimming along the river looks more like a beaver. The fur of the animal is dense, thick, can be both red-gray, and almost brown. The long tail is almost devoid of wool and serves as a helm. Nutria feeds on plant food, preferring roots and young shoots of sedge and reeds. Insects and frogs, as well as small fish, they do not eat as actively as muskrats.

The muskrat is often confused with otter, although these animals are not only not close relatives, but also have completely different appearance.

Otter belongs to the family of gunties. But the difference between the two animals is not only that. The animal settles near the reservoirs and leads a semi-aquatic lifestyle, feeding mainly on fish, mollusks, frogs, bird eggs and birds. Often, an otter hunts for a muskrat. The otters always dig up their holes on the shore. The body of the animal is long, well-streamlined. The length of an adult individual with the tail can reach one and a half meters. Weight - about 6 - 10 kg. Color predominantly dark brown. The muzzle of the animal is elongated, with large and expressive eyes. The animal has sharp teeth. The otter's paws are short but strong. There are membranes between the fingers, allowing the otter to swim perfectly.

Description of muskrat

The musk rat is a single representative of its species and genus of muskrats.. Muskrats are represented by semi-aquatic organisms of the subfamily of voles belonging to the rodent squad and are considered one of the largest members of the Muridae family in the northern part of America. They also adapted to the existence in Russia, Europe and Northern Asia, where they were brought artificially.

Their external awkwardness forced to adapt to water habitats. It is a semi-aquatic rodent that harms irrigation agricultural structures and is an orderly for river channels at the same time. The muskrat lives in the wild nature of rivers and lakes, as well as in artificial reservoirs, in conditions of individual farms.


Musk rats have waterproof fur, mostly brownish in color. It consists of several layers of guard coat and undercoat. These are thick, silky to the touch fibers of the highest quality. The body is covered with thick, soft insulating wool, as well as protective hairs that are longer, coarse and have a glossy appearance. This structure creates a hydrophobic affect, due to which water can not penetrate into the wool of the skin. Muskrats carefully care for their “fur coat”, regularly clean it and grease it with special grease.

It is interesting! Color can be varied. The back and legs with a tail are usually darker. The belly and neck are lighter, often grayish. In winter, the coat is noticeably darker, while in summer it burns out in the sun and brightens a shade of two.

Their tails, similar to the steering wheel, are laterally compressed and practically devoid of hair. Instead, they are covered with rough skin, as if compressed in the sides, and along the bottom is a hair coarse comb, leaving a mark on a loose road in the process of walking. At its base are the inguinal glands, emitting a well-known musky scent, through which the animal marks the boundaries of its territories. The tail of this rat is involved in movement, serving as a support on land and a swimming rudder in the water.

The muskrat has a small head with a blunt little muzzle. Sight and smell are poorly developed, mainly the animal relies on hearing. The body is rounded and thick. The ears of the musk rat are so small that they are barely noticeable behind the hair around them. The eyes are small, protrude beyond the structure of the head, are located high. As for the teeth, like all rodents, muskrats have very noticeable incisors. They protrude beyond the mouth, are behind the lips. This structure allows the animal to gnaw objects at a depth so that water does not fall into the oral cavity.

Muskrat's forepaws consist of four clawed toes and one small. Such small front limbs are quite suitable for the skillful manipulation of plant materials and digging. On claws of musk muskrat there are five clawed toes, which have a partially webbed structure. That it allows the animal to move perfectly in the water element. Physical characteristics of an adult animal: body length - 470-630 millimeters, tail length - 200-270 millimeters, approximate weight - 0.8-1.5 kilograms. In size, the average adult muskrat resembles something between a beaver and an ordinary rat.

Character and way of life

Musk rats - restless animals that can be active around the clock. They are excellent builders of the bed and tunnel excavators, who dig for the steep banks of the rivers or build nests of mud and plants. Their burrows can reach 2 meters in diameter with a height of 1.2 meters. The walls of the home are about 30 centimeters wide. Inside the dwelling there are several entrances and tunnels that go into the water.

Settlements are isolated from each other. They can reach an internal air temperature 20 degrees warmer compared to the ambient outside temperature. Musk rats also create a so-called "feeder". This is another structure, located at a distance of 2-8 meters from the bed and used to store food during the winter months. Muskrats break tunnels through the mud from their lodge to their “vaults” to facilitate access to reserves.

Musk rats can also inhabit the drainage canals of agricultural land, where there is a lot of food and water. The ideal water depth for the muskrat habitat ranges from 1.5 to 2.0 meters. They do not suffer from narrow space and do not require huge water latitudes. Their main criteria for settlement are the abundance of food in wide availability, provided in the form of land-based coastal and aquatic plants. The duration of the tunnels reaches 8-10 meters. The entrance to the housing is not visible from the outside, as it is securely hidden under the water. Muskrats have a special method of housing construction, which protects them from flooding. They build it in two levels.

It is interesting! These animals are great swimmers. They also have another special device - the supply of nutrients in the blood and muscles for successful underwater life. This gives musk rodents the ability to withstand a long time without access to air.

Therefore, they are capable of long dives. Были задокументированы случаи нахождения животного под водой в течение 12 минут без воздуха в лаборатории и на протяжении 17 минут в дикой природе. Дайвинг – это очень важный поведенческий навык ондатр, который позволяет в краткие сроки убежать от преследующего хищника. Потому что он позволяет им успешно остерегаться недоброжелателей и плавать в безопасности.On the surface, muskrats swim at a speed of about 1.5-5 kilometers per hour. And this is even without the use of a secret accelerator - the tail.

They use their rear suspension legs to move around the earth. Due to the structure of the body and its overall bulkiness, and sluggishness - the movement does not look very aesthetic. Due to the small size of the front paws, they are supported close under the chin and are not used for locomotion. Under water for swimming, muskrats will use their tails, resorting to horizontal locomotion. The structure of their body during swimming allows you to quickly move the water to pursue the offender or to evade predators. Also in the process of escape can be useful tunnel-like holes, through the mud of which they successfully hide. Musk rats can dig them to the side of the river bank and wait for the predator under a layer of vegetation, located above the water line.

The structure of the house allows you to save it the necessary thermoregulation. For example, during cold winter frosts, the air temperature in the hole does not fall below zero degrees Celsius. To occupy one winter house can simultaneously up to six individuals. A large population in the winter period allows you to comply with metabolic savings. The more animals, the warmer they are together.

Therefore, in animals living in groups to survive in cold weather chances are greater than in solitary individuals. Muskrats are more susceptible to cold when they are on their own. Especially sensitive to cold is the absolutely naked tail of an animal, which is often frostbite. In extreme cases, muskrats can chew their completely frost-bitten tail to cause its speedy healing. Also often recorded cases of internal cannibalism. Such a phenomenon may occur as a result of overpopulation of the housing group in conditions of lack of food. Also often there is a struggle of males for females and territorial location.

How many muskrats live

The average life expectancy for a muskrat is less than 2–3 years.. It's all about the high mortality of animals in the wild, which is 87% of individuals in the first year of life, 11% in the second, the remaining 2% do not live to 4 years. In domestic conditions, muskrats live up to 9-10 years, provided they are kept in comfort. By the way, to keep them in captivity is quite simple. Muskrats are fed with everything that they are offered, and with pleasure. In the period of enhanced growth, you can add calcium-containing products to the menu. Such as cottage cheese, milk, lean fish and meat. Musk rats quickly adapt to the presence of a person, but do not lose vigilance. These animals can be carriers of many diseases.


Early reports of America’s settlers ’historical records indicate that initially the largest number of these animals were counted in Wisconsin. Wetland sites were not fully explored before the mass resettlement of people in the state. During this period, the muskrat population strongly fluctuated due to droughts, alternating with extreme winters. The greatest damage to the population was caused by habitat destruction. To date, muskrat populations have been marked by historical figures, but retain a high level of viability of the population.

It is interesting! The natural range is located in North America. Acclimatization of these animals was made in Russia and Eurasia. Over time, in order to increase their number, they were also settled in the territories of other countries. Such zeal is associated with the use of muskrat skins in industrial production.

Muskrats inhabit all sorts of peaty lakes, canals, and streams. They do not disdain, as natural reservoirs, and artificially created. They can even be found around the city, because the presence of a person nearby does not frighten them in any way. Musk rats are not present in places of deep freezing of waters in winter and in places devoid of natural vegetation.

Muskrat Diet

Muskrats are mid-range trophic consumers, mostly eating plant matter, such as: cabbage, reed, weed, and other plants growing in the water and off the coast. Less fastidious individuals can successfully eat mollusks, crayfish, frogs, fish and carrion, if any of this is abundant. It is estimated that 5-7% of the muskrat menu consists of animal products.

In winter, they choose food caches as well as underwater roots and tubers for the main source of food.. These animals prefer to feed within no more than 15 meter distance from their house and, as a rule, they will not go even with acute need for a distance of more than 150 meters.

Natural enemies

The musk rat is an important prey for many predators. They are hunted by dogs, coyotes, turtles, eagles, hawks, owls and other small predatory animals. Minka is one of the largest predators of lizards. An early study of the relationship between the two organisms showed that a sample size of 297 products containing mink frames in 65.92% had muskrat remains.

Population and species status

Muskrats are widespread animals, however, every 6-10 years the population undergoes sharp reductions. The reason for the systematic decline in numbers has not been established. At the same time, musk rats are especially fertile and easily adaptable to various conditions.

Muskrat and man

Musk-rat muskrat is one of the most important industrial fur-bearing animal species. The greatest value is in its durable, soft skin. Also edible and the meat of these rodents. In the cities of North America it is often called the “water crawl”. He got this name due to his taste and unique dietary composition.

The musky rodent was considered the “bread and butter” of the Wisconsin trap. From 1970-1981 32.7 million hides were harvested from the “catch” of Wisconsin wetlands. Most management practices for the state allow for the production of large quantities of muskrats. In turn, the high level of the muskrat population leads to habitat damage and the spread of a devastating disease.

It is interesting! Muskrats have consistently played an important role in the Wisconsin fur market. After a few years, the meat of these animals was the main product of what was bought and sold in the fur industry.

In a number of settlements and reservoirs, muskrats damage irrigation systems, dams and dams, thanks to their bursting capabilities. Thus, damage to farms is inflicted; rice cultivation suffers the most from their “efforts”. Uncontrolled reproduction of muskrats can damage coastal and aquatic vegetation by consuming uncontrolled volumes.. More than ten natural focal diseases can tolerate these cute animals. Among the list are also dangerous paratyphoid and tularemia.

At the same time musk rats are very important in environmental terms. They help to maintain the wetlands in order and open them, clearing the waterways, thanks to increased consumption of the vegetation located there. This allows you to organize a smooth flow of a variety of more sensitive types of plants, as well as insects, waterfowl and other animals.