Many people who live on or near a lake, creek, river, or body of water are very used to seeing our little ‘river rats’. Muskrats played an important role in the settlement of this country, providing food and fur for the people who came here. Nowadays, they live in our bodies of water, really tick off our dogs, and frustrate a lot of boat dock owners. Muskrats are the only semi-aquatic rodent, almost a miniature beaver. They are more closely related to a mole than a beaver in reality, but they share a lot physical features with the latter. Many times muskrats share a beaver’s den during the winter months, and they coexist quite amicably. An adult muskrat is about 16 to 24 inches long, almost half of that is the tail, and they weigh from 1.5 to 4 lb. That is about four times the weight of a regular rat, though an adult muskrat is only slightly longer. Think of them as a fuzzy brown, usually wet, soccer ball sized animal with a very long opossum-type tail.
Muskrats are considered to be omnivorous and eat the roots, stems, leaves, and fruits of a many water plants, such as cattail, wild rice, water lilies, and rushes. Even though the muskrat is mainly a plant eater, it also eats small fish, clams, snails, and even turtles. In general, muskrats keep to themselves and don’t want much to do with humans. They aren’t raiding our trash cans, or tearing up our yards, but there are times that they become a bit of a nuisance to some people. Muskrats multiply like rabbits, and one muskrat is not usually the issue. Two muskrats become 20 muskrats in an amazingly short length of time, and before you know it you might be overrun with them. Here are a few of the calls we’ve gotten concerning our river rat friends.