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Muskrat (Ondatra zibethica).—John H. Gerard
Either of two semiaquatic, brown rodent species (family Cricetidae) native to marshes, shallow lakes, and streams of North America and introduced into Europe. The compact, heavy-bodied muskrat, or musquash (Ondatra zibethica), is about 12 in. (30 cm) long, not including the long, scaly, flat tail. The partially webbed hind feet have a stiff, bristly fringe. Anal sacs produce a musky secretion. The commercially valuable fur consists of long, stiff, glossy guard hairs overlying a dense, soft underfur. Muskrats live in either a burrow dug into the bank or a reed-and-rush mound built in the water. They eat sedges, reeds, roots, and an occasional aquatic animal. The round-tailed muskrat, or Florida water rat (Neofiber alleni), is smaller.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on muskrat, visit Britannica.com.