We hadn’t seen a muskrat for a while, but when it appeared, he was right where you would expect a muskrat to be… swimming and foraging in a freshwater wetland. This arvicoline rodent, the largest found in our state, is highly adapted for an aquatic environment and can stay submerged for as long as 20 minutes at a time.
Muskrat habitat in Oregon is found primarily in the Willamette Valley, Coastal regions, and east of a line from The Dalles in Hood River County to Shirk in Harney County.Some have been introduced to unpopulated lakes and marshes in Lake, Klamath, and Curry counties. Although they are usually found in the vicinity of lakes, ponds, sloughs, swamps, marshes, rivers and creeks- Muskrats are also known to make occasional extensive overland treks.
All on the muskrat’s body is heavily furred except for the tail and feet. The tail, as seen briefly during a dive under water, is flattened laterally, scaly, and naked but for sparse hairs on the keel.The fur consists of extremely dense, waterproof underfur that is overlain with glossy dark-brown guard hairs.Muskrats have relatively small forefeet, but the hind feet are large and partially webbed.
Muskrats eat a wide variety of vegetable and animal foods including:cattails, sedges, rushes, water lilies, pondweeds, wild rice, pickerelweed, clover, willow, acorns, maple samaras, arrowhead, sweet flag, switchgrass, mussels, crayfish, frogs, snails, and fish. In the photo, the muskrat is dining on the leaf-blades and roots of Reed Canarygrass.
Muskrats are the subject of Native American traditions and stories. Click on the muskrat below to learn more.