When you first look at it, it is possible that you would mistake a muskrat for being a small beaver or a big rat. However, a muskrat is neither of those. Scientifically, muskrats go by the name of Ondatra zibethicus. They are similar to common herbivores, which means their diet mainly consists of plants.
However, if the situation presents them with the opportunity, muskrats will definitely divert from their usual herbivorous meal and eat small fish, shrimp and mussels. In this sense, muskrats can be more accurately categorized as omnivores. Given a chance, they are likely to eat pretty much anything.
Anyway, now that we have cleared up the diet preferences of the muskrats, let us proceed to learn more about these rodent-like animals. For example, you might find yourself wondering, why do they eat fish? Or, apart from fish and plants, what else do they eat? Or, perhaps you want to know how they get their food. So, why don’t we find out?
Why Do Muskrats Eat Fish?
There is honestly no deep or known meaning behind fish being included in the diet of a muskrat. It is mostly because of the availability of fish.
Muskrats usually live near the water. When looking for food, they don’t tend to go too far from their habitats. However, in order to survive, they need to consume a lot of food. After all, these small animals have quite a big appetite.
Water being their hunting ground, fishes are in abundance. Thus, by including fish in their diet, it becomes quite easy for muskrats to find enough food without going too far from their dens. Besides, muskrats are not really picky when it comes to food. In fact, they can even resort to cannibalism if the situation demands it.
What Do The Muskrats Eat In General?
As we have already established, muskrats are basically omnivores. They tend to eat plants, animals, and everything in between. Though we are aiming for accuracy here, muskrats do seem to have a preference for eating aquatic plants.
In fact, while they are in their natural environment, muskrats will usually survive by eating aquatic vegetation only. They eat the roots, fruits, leaves, and stems of various different water plants. The favorite food source of the muskrats is a reed-like plant with an interesting name. The name is cattail, and they are usually found near water.
Anyway, muskrats are also found to enjoy other aquatic plants such as water lilies, sedges, pond weeds, rushes, etc. As a matter of fact, almost 95% of the diet of the muskrats consists of vegetation of one type or another.
Despite being 95% herbivores, at least 5% of the diet of the muskrats consists of foods that earned them their omnivore title. Muskrats usually feed on whatever they can find around their natural habitat. This usually consists of small aquatic animals such as fish, shrimp, frogs, crayfish, freshwater mussels, and even small turtles.
Relevant topic we already discussed at outdoorboat –
A List Of The Common Foods Of Muskrats
Muskrats are heavy eaters. You would be surprised to know that they have the ability to eat food that can make up one-third of their body weight. This ability of muskrats is mostly due to the fact that they have pretty high caloric needs. When considering from this perspective, it seems pretty natural that muskrats are willing to eat anything.
However, despite their unfussy omnivore tendency, it is certainly possible to make a list of the common foods that are famous among muskrats. The list is given below:
- Water Lilies
- Pond Weeds
- Small Turtles
- Freshwater Mussels
How Do The Muskrats Get Their Food?
Considering the fact that 95% of the muskrats’ diet consists of plants or vegetation of one kind or another, these little animals can hardly be called predators. But this is not to say that muskrats do not have unique ways of acquiring and consuming their food. Because they certainly do.
The muskrats make their entire lifestyle circling around their dens, where they live with their entire family. However, they tend to have separate dens, which can be used for various purposes and needs. Feeding is one such need.
Considering the fact that there seem to be many predators of muskrats, it is actually not surprising to know that muskrats do not like to feed in any open place where they can be hunted. Therefore, when muskrats find a plant or animal they would like to feed on, they try to take the food to their dens.
Being crepuscular creatures, muskrats are most active either at dawn or dusk. Thus, you may find muskrats going out to hunt for their food in the low-light time of the day.
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Once they find food, they will grab the food and try to take the food to their den by swimming underwater. Only when they are at their feeding dens muskrats will finally eat their food peacefully.
Do Muskrats Store Food?
When reading about the ‘feeding dens’ of the muskrats, did it make you wonder, do muskrats store food in their feeding dens? Well, the question certainly occurred to us, and we found the answer as well.
Answered simply: No, they do not store any food in their dens.
Unlike their larger look-alike beavers, muskrats do not go into hibernation during the winter. They also do not keep any food stored in their dens. This means when winter comes and most other animals of the same kind go into hibernation or have some food stored, muskrats need to keep on hunting.
No matter how cold the day gets, you can count on muskrats to go out daily and hunt for their food. If the den of a muskrat gets frozen up by the cold, the muskrat will cut holes in the frozen ice around its den by using its teeth.
Other times, they would use mud to make channels. These channels would help them to reach the fishes and such food living under the ice.
Muskrats are pretty common wild animals, but they are hardly seen often everywhere or recognized by many. There are so many people out there who just confuse muskrats with other similar-looking animals, such as a beaver or a rat. And since they mostly eat plants, there are questions about them being omnivores as well.
However, they are omnivores. They might mostly eat plants and other aquatic vegetation, but they will not pass up a good fish if they can get their hands on it.