Creature Feature

Creature Feature – Muskrats

Posted by  //  January 8, 2019  //  Articles, Creature Feature

Sometimes mistaken for baby beavers, muskrats can be found throughout NY.

They’ll eat fish, mussels and crayfish, but their main diet consists of the stems and roots of aquatic plants, so habitats of choice include lakes, marshes and other watery environs with nearby vegetation.  Mounds of matted plant debris are telltale signs of muskrats’ presence. They’re nocturnal, but may be active in daylight, too, and since they don’t hibernate, you can spot them year round. Muskrat den styles vary based on habitat:  stream dwellers make burrows into the banks, while a marsh inhabitant constructs a dome-shaped den from vegetation. In winter, muskrats build a dual-purpose structure by pushing water plants through openings in the ice. The mounded vegetation freezes solid and creates a breathing hole and a place to rest.  Other animals benefit from muskrat neighbors. Turtles use their dens to hibernate in, and Canada geese, mallard ducks and black terns nest on top of muskrat huts or in areas they’ve cleared of bur-reeds. Mature female muskrats may have up to three litters of kits a year, but trapping, auto collisions and hungry predators contribute significantly to muskrat mortality.

Article & photo by Margie Manthey

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