If this rodent had a theme song, it wouldn’t be “Muskrat Love,” it would be something more real-life appropriate, like “Stayin’ Alive.”
“Despite their rodent classification and their long tails, the muskrat (Ondatra zibethica) is not particularly rat-like. In fact, said Kim Royar, a biologist with Vermont Fish and Wildlife, muskrats are not closely related to rats, but are close cousins to voles and lemmings. Regardless of where they got their name, muskrats play some important ecological roles, including improving water habitat for other animals — and serving as dinner for a range of predators, large and small.
“It’s a ubiquitous prey species. Just about anything that can get access to a muskrat will eat it,” Royar said. That includes mink, raccoons, coyotes, foxes, and otters, as well as winged predators such as owls and harriers. Even snapping turtles, pike, and bullfrogs will nosh on these semi-aquatic rodents.
“Muskrats are less than an ounce when they’re born,” Royar said. “Those tiny babies are probably a tasty morsel for a bullfrog. It’s a tough world."
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