The muskrat swims through the water using its feet and its long tail. By D. Gordon E. Robertson
Muskrats are rodents that live in and near the water in marshes, ponds, and freshwater lakes. Muskrats grow up to two feet long. Half of that length is the muskrat’s body, and the other half is the muskrat’s tail!
Muskrats have two layers of fur. The muskrat’s thick, soft under layer of fur helps it stay warm as it swims through cold water. Its longer guard hairs are water-resistant and help keep the under fur dry. Muskrats are active all year around. They could not survive without their fur in places where it gets cold in the winter.
Muskrats swim through the water to reach cattails and other plants that grow in the water. The muskrat’s main source of food is the tender parts of these plants. The muskrat mixes mud with inedible parts of these plants in order to build its home, called a lodge. Once the muskrat has made a big pile of plants and mud that sticks out of the water, the muskrat digs out the inside of the pile to make a hollow space where it will live. Muskrats sometimes dig holes into muddy ground on the edges of stream banks and live there. These holes are called burrows.
Many people who live in cold climates like clothing, such as hats, made from muskrat fur because the layers of under fur and guard hair make the clothing very warm when it is cold outside. In these areas, people trap muskrats at some times of the year and sell the furs or use them to make clothing for themselves. So far, the muskrat is not in danger of being over-trapped or becoming extinct.
Muskrats find food and shelter in the water. They almost always live in and around ponds, streams, and lakes. By Dan Leveille
This muskrat lodge is made of mud and plants stuck together. The inside is hollow and accessible from underneath the water. By MONGO, via Wikimedia Commons (see link below)
For references, please see the above link and the following books:
Hazard, Evan B. The Mammals of Minnesota. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1982. Pp. 97-99.
Wallace, Marianne D. America’s Wetlands: Guide to Plants and Animals. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2004. P. 38