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large-toothed muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus macrodon)

Distribution Map

Distribution Map

Characteristics

This is a large rodent with a large, blunt head, small eyes, short small ears almost hidden in fur and partially webbed hind feet (broad) to accommodate its semiaquatic existence. They are aptly named for the strong musky odor they can produce. The fore feet are smaller and the tail is long, laterally flattened, scaly, and sparsely haired ventrally. The fur is rich brown above, with coarse guard hairs, paler below. The muskrat's total length is 456-553 mm, and weight is 0.6-1.8 kg. The breeding season is approximately February-October and 2-3 litters of 5-7 young are produced each year. Muskrats build houses of rushes, leaves.sticks and mud and they build 2 types of structures: 1) elliptical nesting or dwelling houses and 2) circular feeding shelters. The house usually contains adults and 2-4 young . Longevity is from 3-4 years and there are many predators, including mink (especially), and raccoon, bald eagles, great horned owls, ferruginous hawks, marsh hawks, foxes, water moccasins and larger turtles.

Distribution

This species is probably present in all or most counties east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This species likes marshes, ponds, lakes, low-gradient streams, bank burrows or houses.

Foods

This species consumes herbaceous plant parts, woody plant parts, herbaceous fruit, rooted aquatic plants, roots/tubers/rhizomes, floating aquatic plants, crustaceans-aquatic, clams, fish fry, fish adults, amphibian juveniles and adults and carrion. Some store food in chambers. They are primarily herbivorous, however animal matter is occasionally consumed.

More Information

For more information, please visit the Virginia Fish & Wildlife Information Service (direct link to species booklet).