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What Do Muskrats Eat?

What Do Muskrats Eat?

Muskrats are medium-sized semiaquatic rodents.  They are native to North America and are also found in certain parts of Europe, Asia, and South America.  These large rats prefer to live in wetlands but they can survive in a wide range of habitats.

They are just about the same size as large rats.  They grow an average of 41 – 63 cm long and can weigh up to 2 kilograms.

These large rodents love to swim and they have furry coats that protect them from the cold.  In the past, muskrats were hunted for their fur.  Their fur is very warm and was popular for making fur coats.  In some parts of North America, these rats have also been used as a food source.  In certain countries like Europe, these animals are however considered invasive pests.

What Do Muskrats Eat

Muskrats, like normal rats, are omnivores.  They eat a huge variety of foods and are often considered pests because they are often drawn to garden crops and cornfields.  Here is a quick look at some of the most common foods these animals enjoy eating.

Vegetation

These rats will eat just about any type of vegetation they can lay their paws on.  They are especially fond of aquatic plants like cattails, water lilies, roots, and pondweed but will also feed on other plant matter like grasses, corn, grain plants, vegetable plants, and many other foods.

Small animals

These rats will also eat meat.  They will hunt and kill other small animals such as lizards, snails, salamanders, young birds, eggs, young rats, lizards, squirrels, raccoons, or small snakes non-venomous snakes.

Aquatic animals

These animals are semi-aquatic.  They can spend a great deal of their time in the water where they will hunt for all sorts of aquatic creatures like fish, crustaceans, mussels, and many other animals or insects they find drifting or swimming in the water.

Insects

Muskrats will also eat a variety of insect types.  They are especially fond of aquatic insects like mayflies, dragonflies, and water beetles but they will also catch and eat land insects like grasshoppers, crickets, earthworms, worms, beetles, and many other insects types.

Fruits and vegetables

Muskrats are considered a pest in many countries because they can cause so much damage to the agricultural sector.  They will eat just about any type of fruit and vegetable they find including the plants and roots of these vegetables.  These animals will eat carrots, leafy greens, beets, tomatoes, and many other types of vegetables.  They will also eat fruits like berries, grapes, apples, pineapples, and all other fruit types.

Grain, seeds, and nuts

Muskrats are especially fond of grains, seeds, and nuts.  They enjoy eating crops such as corn, sugarcane, rice, and oats.  They also enjoy eating all sorts of seeds such as corn, sunflower seeds, peas, fruit seeds, herb seeds, and many other types.

Carrion

If these rats find a carcass, they will also feed on the carrion meat.  They will eat just about any type of carcass they find including larger animals such as cows, goats, buffalo, and many others.

Water

Muskrats are usually found in wetlands because they enjoy swimming and they need a lot of water to stay hydrated and cool.  They can survive with less water but always do prefer areas where they can take a swim.

Diet Variations

Since they are omnivores and eat almost anything, they can have a huge variety of diet variations.  These rats will even resolve to cannibalism. It isn’t uncommon for them to eat the young of other muskrats at all and they will also feed on each other’s carcasses.

How to Feed Muskrats

Since these animals will chew and munch anything, they are pretty easy to feed.  Just make sure that they have enough water available so they can stay nourished.  You can offer a pet muskrat a variety of foods every day to ensure they get all their needed nutrients.

What Do Muskrats Eat In the Wild?

In the wild, these rats will eat anything they find.  They mostly focus on food surrounding aquatic sources such as water insects, water animals, and water plants but they will also travel to find other foods like grasses, crops, and vegetables.

What Do Muskrats Eat in Captivity?

In captivity, you can feed your muskrat on bird seed mixes and offer them a portion of fresh fruits or vegetables every day.  You can also offer treats like insects, worms, or meat.

What do Baby Muskrats Eat?

These rats are mammals and need to drink from their mother to survive.  Baby muskrats are called kits.  They nurse for up to 21 days and are fully weaned before they are 4 months old.  By this time, they will eat all the same food as adult muskrats.

If you are raising a kit muskrat, then you can also feed it on specialized formula milk for rats.  You can also introduce solid foods from one month onward so they can start to nibble at and try these foods.

How Much Do Muskrats Eat?

These small animals do have a healthy appetite.  They eat one-third of their weight per day.  They usually don’t travel too far to get their food.  Mostly they stay within 46 meters of their homes where they will feed on anything they can find in that radius.

How Often Do Muskrats Eat?

These animals will eat all day if they can.  They need a lot of food considering their size and might spend many hours looking for food and feeding.  Typically, they feed several times throughout the day.

Do Muskrats Eat Ducks?

These rats are not likely to catch and kill an adult duck but they can catch and eat ducklings.  They will also feed on duck carrion if they happen to find a carcass.

Do Muskrats Chew Trees?

Yes, these rats do chew on trees and will strip the bark from these trees. But they are not likely to cut down an entire tree.  Young trees sometimes do die after sustaining lots of damage caused by the muskrat.

Do Muskrats Eat Frogs?

Yes, muskrats will eat frogs if they happen to catch one.  They will also feed on the carrion meat of dead frogs.  They are especially fond of tadpoles since they enjoy swimming so much.

Do Muskrats Eat or Cut Down Trees?

No, muskrats do cause damage to trees by chewing the bark from the stems but they are unlikely to cut down an entire tree.  They are much smaller than beavers and eat a wider range of foods.  They don’t need to cut down trees because they do not build dams in the water.