Muskrat (Ondatra zibethica)


The name comes from the musky odor secreted from glands on the abdomen.

Distribution: throughout south Louisiana, as far north as Avoyelles Parish; throughout most of North America, except for a few western states, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida

Habitat: coastal marshes, bayous, lakes; builds houses out of vegetation and mud or burrows into levees and stream banks to construct dens.

Appearance: vertically flat tail, average adult weight is 2 pounds, total length averages 22 inches (10 of which is the tail), partially webbed hind feet, sharp claws on the front teeth used for digging stems and roots, musk glands on the lower abdomen of males

Food habits: primarily live vegetation, some fish, mussels, insects and snails

Habits: somewhat sociable with other muskrats, but when populations become dense, they will fight to the death; can hold their breath underwater for 10-12 minutes

Reproduction: year round, highest degree of sexual activity in November and March, the lowest in July and August; 5 to 6 litters per year; 3 to 4 young per litter, sexual maturity at 6 to 8 weeks of age

Controls: prey to mink, fox, coyotes, hawks, and owls

Values: uncontrolled muskrat populations cause damage to irrigation canals, dams, and dikes, by digging around these structures. They also cause "eat-outs", by feeding on roots of vegetation. It may take 15-20 years for the habitat to return to its original capacity to serve wildlife species.

BMPs for Trapping Muskrats