Small muskrat    Ondatra zibethicus

Physical Characteristics

"Identification: Head and body 10 - 14 in. (25 - 36 cm); tail 8 - 11 in. (20 - 28 cm); wt. 2 - 4 lb. (908 - 1816 g). Fur dense, rich brown, overlaid with coarse guard hair; belly silvery; tail long, naked, scaly, and black; flattened from side to side. Character of tail alone is sufficient to distinguish the Muskrat from all other mammals. Their presence in marshes may be detected by the conical houses, 2 - 3 ft. (61 - 91 cm) above water, which are built of marsh vegetation. Skull...has 16 teeth. There are 6 mammae."(1)


"Marshes, edges of ponds, lakes, and streams; cattails, rushes, water lillies, open water."(1)


"Feeds on aquatic vegetation, also clams, frogs, and fish on occasion."(1)

Reproductive Characteristics

"Breeds April - Aug. in North, in winter in South.
Young: Usually 5 - 6 (1 - 11); gestation period 22 - 30 days; 2 - 3 litters a year. Naked, blind."(1)


"Chiefly aquatic; moves overland, especially in autumn....Builds house in shallow water; also burrows in banks; entrances usually underwater; 1 family to each house....
Economic status: One of our most valuable fur animals; may cause some damage to dikes by burrowing."(1)

Muskrat Link

Check out this Home Page -- everything you want to know about Muskrats - contains to other "Muskrat" sites. http://www.net-link.net/~vaneselk/muskrat/

Literature Cited

  1. Burt, W.H., R.P. Grossenheider. 1976. The Peterson Field Guide Series: A Field Guide to the Mammals. Peterson, R.A. (Ed.). Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, pgs. 193-194.
  2. Hoffmeister, D.F. 1986. Mammals of Arizona. University of Arizona Press, Tucson
  3. Findley, J.S. 1987. The Natural History of New Mexican Mammals. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque
  4. Findley, J. S., A. H. Harris, D. E. Wilson, and C. Jones. 1975. Mammals of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque,

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      rev. 05-Nov-2012