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Muskrat

From Academic Kids

Muskrat
Conservation status: Lower risk
Missing image
Muskrat_drawing_FWS.gif
Muskrat


Scientific classification
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Mammalia
Order:Rodentia
Superfamily:Muroidea
Family:Cricetidae
Subfamily:Arvicolinae
Genus:Ondatra
Species:O. zibethicus
Binomial name
Ondatra zibethicus
(Linnaeus, 1766)

The Muskrat or Musquash (Ondatra zibethicus), the only species in genus Ondatra, is a large aquatic rodent native to North America, and introduced in parts of Europe. Adult body length is usually between 25-40 cm long, with a strong, laterally compressed tail 20-25 cm long. The body is covered in thick, brown waterproof fur; the underparts are paler. They have partially webbed hind feet and small able hand-like front feet. The weight is up to 1700 g, about four times the weight of a Brown Rat.

They live in wetlands: ponds, lakes, marshes and river banks, hence the nickname "swamp bunny". The are very good swimmers, using their tail for propulsion in the water. They are found in Alaska, Canada, the United States and northern Mexico. Extensive burrow systems are dug in the ground adjacent to the water with an underwater entrance. In marshes, lodges are constructed from cattails and mud. They also build feeding platforms in wetlands. Muskrats help maintain open areas in marshes, which helps to provide habitat for aquatic birds.

These animals are most active at night or near dawn and dusk. They feed on cattails and other aquatic vegetation, freshwater mussels, frogs, crayfish and small turtles. Their predators include mink, foxes, coyotes, wolves, lynx and large owls. They are also trapped for their fur and, in some communities, for their meat.

The male muskrat marks his territory with a strong musky secretion which gives this animal its name. Females have 2 to 3 litters of 6 to 8 young. Muskrat populations appear to go through a regular pattern of rise and dramatic decline spread over a 6 to 10 year period.

While much wetland habitat has been eliminated due to human activity, new muskrat habitat has been created by the construction of canals or irrigation channels and the muskrat remains common and wide-spread.

In The Netherlands, where the muskrat was introduced, its burrowing causes damage to dykes and levees. For this the animal is hunted to keep the population down. Killed animals are sometimes sold to restaurants and served as waterkonijn (water rabbit).

External Links

eo:Ondatro fr:Rat musqué nl:Muskusrat pl:Piżmak fi:Piisami

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