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Muskrats Cohabit With Beavers

4-24-19 muskrat_U1A7137Muskrats, or “rats,” as they’re sometimes derogatorily called, are semi-aquatic, mostly plant-eating rodents that live in ponds, streams, lakes and marshes. During the winter they seek shelter in lodges that they build out of grasses, reeds, cattails and sticks. Muskrat lodges are much smaller than Beaver lodges, which are constructed out of mud and sizable branches, sticks, stones and mud.

In the spring Muskrats often build nests by burrowing into a stream or pond bank, which they enter under water. Muskrats are also known to set up residence in active Beaver lodges. After dining on aquatic vegetation, the pictured Muskrat made a beeline for the beaver-occupied lodge nearby, and dove under as it approached it. Beavers and Muskrats tolerate each other’s presence in the same pond (and lodge) even though they both consume much of the same vegetation. Unlike Beavers, Muskrats supplement their diet of plants with frogs, crayfish, clams, snails, and fish. It may be that when cohabiting a lodge, they may help one another keep an eye out for predators. (Photo: Muskrat eating pond vegetation)

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7 responses

  1. OK, I am obviously used to seeing the Virginia muskrats on my summer job college campus. They don’t have these big, dark muscular tails. I’d have sworn this was a beaver!

    April 26, 2019 at 8:10 am

    • Same muskrat in Virginia as here…just the light and the angle make it look bigger (and perhaps darker) than ones you’ve seen before!

      April 26, 2019 at 3:34 pm

  2. Bill on the hill

    I’m a bit puzzled too on what appears to be a very large tail. The body looks correct in size for a muskrat & perhaps it is simply the camera angle creating the illusion of a monstrous sized tail. I’ve seen these critters on the Ct. River, local ponds & reservoirs while kayaking…
    Bill… :~)

    April 26, 2019 at 9:33 am

    • You’re right, Bill, it does look large, but just the angle of the tail or the camera, not sure which!

      April 26, 2019 at 3:31 pm

  3. Alice Pratt

    From a bridge, I watched two muskrats swimming below….fun sight.

    April 26, 2019 at 10:06 am

  4. In the Bull Cook by George Leonard Herter he says the muskrat should be named water rabbit because he says muskrat is 1 of the best dishes you will ever eat. He gives a recipe. Boil 6 hind legs for 45 minutes, then season with nutmeg and sautee in butter with onions and celery.

    April 27, 2019 at 8:42 am

    • That’s a new one for me! Let me know if you you try it!

      April 27, 2019 at 10:46 am

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