September 23, 2017

Muskrats

Muskrats
(Ondatra zibethica) can be found in and around rivers, lakes, and ponds throughout Maine. Their coats are essentially waterproof and gray-brown colored, and their tail is nearly hairless. They excavate dens in the banks of streams, rivers, and lakes. Like beaver lodges, these dens have dry chambers and underwater tunnels, and there are ventilation holes which are hidden at the surface by shrubs, branches, and thick vegetation. They also often build “feeding huts” where they can eat in protection while out and about.

Muskrats can have as many as 4 litters per year each with six to seven young in each. Mating season islate March through July. After a gestation period of 28 to 30 days, the young are born blind, helpless, and almost naked. In two weeks, their eyes open and in approximately eight weeks they are weaned from their mother.

Mainly nocturnal, it’s not unusual to see muskrats during the daylight hours. During winter they generally like to spend most of their time in their denst.With their webbed hind feet acting as paddles and their tail as a rudder, muskrats can swim rapidly and can even swim backwards.