Muskrat spring

Muskrats got active in the local ponds as soon as the ice melted.  One afternoon I saw an adult out in the middle of the pond diving for submerged vegetation, which it brought up and ate on the surface.

I expected the muskrat to roll over on its back to eat, like the sea otters do with their clams.

I expected the muskrat to roll over on its back to eat, like the sea otters do with their clams.  They propel themselves forward with the tail and hind legs, while using the forelegs to manipulate their food.

Just as I was about to leave to try to get a better shot of the adult out in the middle of the pond, I noticed another muskrat about half the size of the adult swimming right up next to the shoreline.  This little one was completely unaware of me and swam back and forth in front of me for several minutes.

muskrat

To illustrate how close this guys was to me -- only 100 mm telephoto, and the animal fills the frame of the photo.

To illustrate how close this guy was to me — I used only 100 mm telephoto, and the animal more than filled the entire frame of the photo.

It looks as if they get completely wet, with the outer fur matted with water.  But muskrats actually have two layers of fur, and the inner layer maintains an insulating barrier next to the skin.

This half-sized youngster was probably born in late summer or fall last year, and has probably been kicked out of its cozy muskrat home.  It will be on its own to find its food, because its mother is probably busy with another litter already.  Muskrats are prodigious reproducers with short gestation times and large litter sizes.  A single female might produce 30 young per year.

With that many young muskrats trying to find a place to live in the limited wetland beyond my backyard, I imagine the foxes, owls, and hawks find some good muskrat meals back there.

6 thoughts on “Muskrat spring

    • Like most rodents, they have rather large litters, several times a year, depending on their food supply. 30 offspring per year is probably a maximal number, with the average being more like 15-25.

  1. This post reminds me of a time a muskrat slowly walked between my boots at a small stream while I stood somewhat amazed as he pass on by. In some areas of the Tantramar marsh in New Brunswick it looks like a muskrat village with many of their spiffy pads adorning the marshlands.
    Great photos, nice to see one up real close again.

    • That is amazing. Are they really that oblivious to human presence? Or do they have really bad eyesight?! I know they have become terrible pests in Europe, with fewer predators to keep the high volume of babies in check.

  2. When i was a real young boy my older brother used to trap these poor things and sell the pelts to a local furrier for 50 cents each. The local river was full of muskrats back then but I rarely see them now.

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