The muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) is a semi-aquatic rodent, native to North America, although it is found and has been introduced in other parts of the world. They are related to the beaver, and even their habitat preferences are similar to that of the beaver. They get their name from two scent glands located near the tail which give off a strong musk-like smell, which they use to their advantage to mark their territory.
They can mostly be found in Canada and the US, and a certain area of northern Mexico; they are found in smaller numbers in various parts of Europe and Asia. Their natural and original habitats are wetlands and areas near salt or freshwater marshlands or rivers. They use marsh vegetation to build their dens or lodges as homes.
The muskrat has the advantage of successfully adapting to a wide range of climates and habitats. It can live practically anywhere, as long as there is some water nearby. They spend a lot of their time in the water and are excellent swimmers. They are suited to life in and out of the water, and can survive and swim under the water for a period of 12 to 17 minutes.
Although today a lot of their wetland areas have been eliminated, they have found new habitats using man-made canals or irrigation channels, as they are highly adaptable. Look for quiet slow-moving waters or streams, and ones that won’t dry up during winter.
They designate as habitats places where they can easily find food. As they are mainly herbivores, they usually eat various water plants such as rushes and water lilies, but when it’s hard for them to get any of their loved water plants, they will feed on mollusks, snails, fish and amphibians.
The habitat areas with lots of vegetation which they prefer also provide them with suitable protection from predators. They are an important source of food for many animals like foxes, coyotes, bears, snakes, large owls and hawks.
Muskrats are mainly active during the night, and spend eighty per cent of their time moving and eating after darkness. They also strongly value personal space, and this is what makes them very territorial, and even aggressive at times, toward other muskrats.
The habitat of the rodent muskrat is areas where there is slow-moving water nearby with plenty of aquatic vegetation, for food and protection from predators. They commonly are to be found in wetlands, although they are highly adaptable animals, and have made canals and irrigation channels their home due to the elimination of the original areas. They are mainly found in areas of North America, and in small populations in various places around the world.