Scientific Name: Ondatra zibethicus
Addt'l Info: Univ. of Michigan
Muskrats have large, robust bodies up to a foot in length, short legs, big feet (with the back feet slightly webbed), and a tail that is flat and scaly. The body is covered with a dense fur that traps air underneath for insulation and buoyancy. The head is isproportionately large with ears that are nearly invisible underneath their fur. As a result, at first glance one may often be mistaken for a beaver.
Though they can be found in and near various wet environments such as ponds and small rivers, muskrats favor marshes where the water level stays a constant depth of four to six feet. Your best bet to see them in Sunriver is to go out in the early evening and take one of the paths near the Meadows golf course that run along the small stream called Sun River. There you are mostly likely to spot them in the tall grasses or amongst the cattails.
The nests of the muskrat are formed by piles of vegetation placed on top of a solid base such as a tree stump or the floor of a bank burrow. Muskrat litters average six to eight babies and the young can swim when only 10 days old. Muskrats are arranged in large family groups and live in definite territories. Muskrats are active during daylight hours but are most active from mid-afternoon until just after dusk.
In water, muskrats are good swimmers and can stay underwater for 12 to 17 minutes, but on land they are relatively slow. While mostly vegetarian, they have been known to eat other animals. Muskrats consume about one-third of their weight every day in various kinds of vegetation. Most meals are comprised of the leaves, stems, and roots of aquatic plants.