Friday, May 13, 2016


Muskrat - Ondatra zibethicus

Muskrats are the largest and the most aquatic of the voles in North America. These rodents are not closely related to the beaver, although both mammals have evolved similar physical and behavioural adaptations to their shared environment.

Muskrats do not hibernate. The photo above shows a muscat feeding on the ice at the side of a slough (runoff pond) close to the Elbow River.

Muskrats usually feed within 60 meters of their burrow, which allows a high population density in an optimal environment. The population cycles with peaks every eight to ten years. Mink are common predators and the population of this carnivore tends to track that of the Muskrat.

The skull bones in the photos are likely muskrat. I found the bones in the grass about 20 meters from a runoff pond below my home. The muskrat was likely attacked by a predator either while swimming or while grooming or eating by the edge of the pond. The predator likely carried the muskrat into the tall grass to eat. 

The pond is home to muskrats. The average litter ranges from 5 to 9 kits. In the fall of 2008 I counted 9 muskrats in the pond at one time. The large number was likely the result of a successful spring litter. Since then I have never seen more than two at a time. Common local predators include coyote, domestic dog, bobcat, mink, larger raptors, and man. 


Naughton, Donna. The Natural History of Canadian Mammals. U of Toronto Press. 2012. 

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