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.
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.
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.