An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

The Varied Diet of Muskrats

8-23-17 muskrat 049A3087

Muskrats are primarily herbivorous. The majority of their diet consists of the tubers, roots, stems, leaves and fruit of a variety of aquatic and terrestrial plants, particularly those of bulrush, cattail and arrowhead. A diet of high fiber is possible because of bacterial fermentation which takes place in their intestines. The digestion of many herbivores is aided by bacteria, but many plant-eaters are restricted in what they can eat because they are unable to change their diet without killing the bacteria. Muskrats, however, can and do consume large amounts of meat (frogs, fish, turtles, crayfish, etc.) and still maintain a healthy population of fiber-digesting bacteria. (Thanks to Jeannie Killam for photo op.)

7 responses

  1. Cheron barton


    Sent from my iPhone


    August 23, 2017 at 7:33 am

  2. Alice Pratt

    Another very interesting facet of nature!

    August 23, 2017 at 7:35 am

  3. Elisabeth W. RUssell

    How ia Muskrat different from a Beaver?

    August 23, 2017 at 8:46 am

    • Biggest visual difference (they’re both semi-aquatic rodents, but distantly related) is that beavers have a flat, broad tail and muskrats have a slender, vertical tail. When a beaver swims, usually only its head is above water; when a muskrat swims, much of its back is often above water. They both build lodges, but they are differently constructed. An adult beaver is much larger than an adult muskrat. That’s right off the top of my head. There are many other differences, but I am short on time to go into them!

      August 23, 2017 at 11:02 am

  4. Marilyn

    Thanks to biologists, we can learn about things that surpass mere observation.

    August 23, 2017 at 10:32 am

  5. peggythebaker

    Early last winter, I saw a muskrat swim through a barely iced over pond in Rochester, dive down and come up with a fish in its mouth. Amazing!

    August 23, 2017 at 12:41 pm

  6. There is at least one muskrat in our wetlands. i see it sometimes when it comes up to the moist field next to wetlands.

    August 23, 2017 at 3:25 pm

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