Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Muskrat (Rat Musqué)

Martin Creek Road
Waterloo County
16 November 2014

     Miriam and I observed five Muskrats in the creek from which the road presumably gets its name, and all seemed to be busy getting ready for winter.
     The Muskrat is the largest of the North American rats and is one of the important fur bearers. In former times it was trapped extensively, and still is to a limited extent, but the wearing of fur has fallen out of favour in recent years, so many are left to live out their lives in peace.
     Both sexes have large anal glands which become greatly enlarged during the breeding season and emit a distinct musky odour; hence the name.

     Muskrats build their own lodges, or use bank dens,  and assemble a winter storage of food, but it has been revealed only recently that they will also share a lodge with American Beavers Castor canadensis. Presumably some kind of commensal relationship has developed for cameras placed inside the beaver lodge have revealed that the Muskrats engage in cleaning activity and also deliver food.

     Overnight the temperature dipped to minus eleven degrees, so we hope that the family (we assume) we saw stayed warm and dry inside its lodge.


  1. In the Netherlands, the muskrats are captured and slain because undermined our dikes. There are too many muskrats in vriue nature in our country. I understand that you use them for their fur.

  2. Hello David. I'm catching up with your blog as you had gone so quiet I thought you had left on one of your world birding trips - clearly not. I remember a thought that Great Horned Owls are rather partial to a meal of Muskrat?