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The muskrat is found all over the United States except in the more arid regions and is common in New England and throughout Connecticut.
Their resemblance to a rat and their musk gland’s scent gave rise to their name.
They have a scaled, rat-like tail, nearly hairless, and slightly flattened on the sides. Muskrats are much smaller than beavers, measuring 18-25 in.
They commonly inhabit wetlands with abundant aquatic flora, including swamps, coastal and freshwater marshes, lakes, ponds, and slow-moving streams.
They feed on aquatic plants, including cattails, sedges, water lilies, arrowheads, and duckweeds. Occasionally, they’ll eat crayfish, snails, mussels, frogs, insects, and slow-moving fish.
This critter has well-known high birth rates, having the capacity to produce up to three litters yearly, each one with 6 to 7 young. They are polygamous, and breeding occurs near the end of March through the end of July.
They are usually active year-round, and although nocturnal, they may also be active during the daytime.
They’re susceptible to cold and wind and spend more time in their dens during winter. They are highly territorial and combative toward each other, although several may share a den during winter. They usually live about one year in the wild.
Muskrats are easy prey to raccoons, foxes, minks, eagles, and owls. Humans hunt them for fur, meat, and sports, and they often hide underwater or in their lodges to protect themselves from predators.
Muskrats are a nuisance since they cause damage to gardens or crops by feeding within them or burrowing into the ground above them.