Ondatra zibethicus


Common Names: Muskrat
Category: Mammals
Sub-category: Rodents


A very successful animal over a wide range of climates and habitats. Muskrats spend much of their time in the water and are well suited for their semi-aquatic life, both in and out of water. Muskrats can swim under water for 12 to 17 minutes. Their bodies, like those of seals and whales, are less sensitive to the buildup of carbon dioxide than those of most other mammals. They can close off their ears to keep the water out. Their hind feet are semi-webbed, although in swimming the tail is their main means of propulsion.The muskrat's name comes from the two scent glands which are found near its tail; they give off a strong 'musky' odor which the muskrat uses to mark its territory.

Found in wetlands, near ponds and lakes.

Edible Notes: Muskrats are edible. There was a custom of eating muskrat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays in Lent that apparently goes back to the early 1800s. Muskrat has the consistency of chicken, but with a unique flavor. Only the hams and shoulders of the muskrat are edible. Remove and discard the musk glands located below the stomach and legs, along with the white stringy meat attached to the musk glands. Place the hams and shoulders in a covered pot of salted cold water with a vented lid and simmer for 45 minutes. The steam should be allowed to escape through the vent in the pot lid. (If necessary, add more water during the simmering process.) Drain. The muskrat meat may now be used in a recipe.
Warnings: Not known to be dangerous.
Sightings