A cute muskrat has been visiting the wetland at Adkins Arboretum. Muskrats do not have great vision, so I was able to observe him as I stood over him on the Visitor’s Center bridge as he was busy eating vegetation. Muskrats have waterproof fur and a long thin tail that they use as a rudder when swimming. Their partially webbed back feet help them swim, and they are known to stay underwater for up to 15 minutes. Muskrats are active day and night and eat primarily vegetation in wetlands, such as sedges, aquatic plants, arrowheads, algae, and duckweed.
Muskrats can have 1 to 3 liters of 5 or 6 young (known as kits) each year. Their gestation period is less than one month, and the kits are born blind. The kits can swim within 10 days, and within 21 days they are ready to eat vegetation. Their life span in the wild is 3 to 4 years.
Predators of the muskrat include eagles, red fox, raccoons, owls, hawks, and mink. This should help keep a good balance, as all of those predators are found at the Arboretum, and that helps complete the circle of the food chain.
On your next visit to the Arboretum, pause on the bridge and scan the wetland. You may see the muskrat as he tucks in for a feast.
by Robyn Affron
Visitor Services Coordinator
Certified Professional Horticulturist