Ondatra zibethicus
The Common Muskrat

The common muskrat is a large rodent that resides in aquatic environments such as marshes. They are usually about two feet in length including their tail. Their bodies are covered in thick  brown fur that is made up of both an outer layer which keeps them dry, and a heavy inside layer which helps them retain their body heat while swimming in the cold water that they inhabit. Their front feet are small and they have four fingers with claws and a small thumb which they use for grasping. The back feet are larger and have five webbed fingers with claws. Along with their webbed back feet and strong, flattened tail, the common muskrat is a very efficient swimmer. Their eyes and ears are very small and most times the ears are almost hidden in their thick fur. Their large incisor teeth are located in front of their cheek, allowing them to gnaw and chew submergent and aquatic vegetation while swimming underwater.

Muskrats serve many important purposes for their habitat and other organisms that they interact with. They are the most valuable aquatic mammals in the fur trading industry, and are  worth millions each year. They also are very important in their habitat because they provide a prey source for several species including mink and large predatory birds. Muskrats also regulate the types and the amount vegetation in their habitat. As they harvest submergent and aquatic vegetation for food and to build their lodges, they provide open spaces for new plants to grow and space for other animals to build their nests, such as ducks and geese. To learn more about how the common muskrat is classified in the grand scheme of things click here.