Muskrats are large semi aquatic rodents that have many similar characteristics to rats. However, they are not members of the “true rat” family and are actually more closely related to voles and lemmings. Muskrats are usually 20 to 30 cm (8 to 12 in) long with a tail of about the same length. They usually weigh between 0.7 to 2 kg (1.5 to 4.4 lbs), which makes them about 4 times larger than the common brown rat. They are native to North America, but have been introduced into much of Europe and parts of northern Asia. If you have ever wondered what these large rodents eat, keep reading to find out.
What do muskrats eat?
Muskrats are considered to be omnivores (plant and animal eaters), although more than 90% of their diet is made up of plant matter, such as cattails and other aquatic vegetation. The remaining portion of their diet is made up of small animals such as fish, frogs, crayfish, turtles and mussels. It was once thought that muskrats may steal stored food from beavers in winter, but recent studies suggest they may actually form a partnership with the beavers.
The following video shows this relationship between the muskrats and beavers:
Did you know?
Throughout history muskrats have been used for their fur and their meat. Catholics are permitted to eat muskrat during times when eating meat is prohibited because it lives in water!