Muskrat Vs. Beaver: The Key Differences Between Mammal Rodents Revealed | Kidadl


Muskrat Vs. Beaver: The Key Differences Between Mammal Rodents Revealed

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Are rat-like rodents splashing around in your neighborhood ponds and lakes?

Well, beavers and muskrats are famous for swimming around aquatic bodies and making small dams and dens around water bodies. These furry critter-like mammals like swimming around and digging holes in the ground.

The beaver and muskrat species can be seen in and around North America. Even though these mammals can often be mistaken for common rats due to their rat-like appearance, they are definitely not related. These animals are helpful to nature in various ways and even though they might look alike, there are definitely features that help to differentiate between beavers and muskrats.

You might want to learn more about other fun facts about the common things all around us. So go ahead and look at some other articles like muskrat facts and mussels vs. clams.

What is the major difference between a muskrat and a beaver?

Beavers and muskrats are semi-aquatic animals that are not closely related but share some behaviors and traits. The main difference between a beaver and a muskrat is their size. Beavers are the largest rodent in North America and are much larger than muskrats. Beavers can grow up to 39-47 in (99.06-119.38 cm) and weigh up to 35-68 lb (15.8-30.84 kg). Muskrats on the other hand can grow up to 16-25 in (40.64-63.5 cm) and weigh about 2-5 lb (0.90-2.26 kg) and therefore are much smaller.

Beavers and muskrats have long tails but even those are significantly different from each other. While muskrats have a long skinny tail covered in black fur, beavers have a large flat tail that is covered in scales and has no hair on it. Both animals are capable of slapping their tails when alarmed, even though beavers have flattened tails and muskrats have rat-like tails.

While the size of their body and tail is significant to differentiate these animals when they are on the land surface, it is quite important to understand the difference between them while they are swimming in a river body as well. Muskrats tend to swim with their head, tail, and hind feet exposed to the water's surface, but beavers tend to only keep their head above the water surface while swimming. Beavers also have webbed hind feet, but their broad tail removes half their tracks. Muskrats on the other hand have partially webbed toes and they leave behind long dragged tracks behind.

A similarity between them is that beavers, muskrats and also minks tend to build lodges. The only way to differentiate their lodges is by looking at the size of them. A beaver's lodge is bigger than a muskrat and the material used is also different. Beavers tend to build dams that are made from logs and mud. Their dams also provide shelter to other wildlife.

Another significant difference is their diet, where the beaver's diet consists of aquatic plants, leaves, and pond lilies, sedges, and twigs, while the muskrats, being omnivores, feed on both aquatic plants like cattails and bulrush, shrubs, and twigs as well as animals like small fishes, frogs, snails, clams, and mussels. These semi-aquatic rodents can close their lips behind their incisors to eat food underwater as well.

Another reason for the confusion leading to the recognition of this species is the presence of Nutria. Nutria is a third species found in South America, brought to the United States to make the fur farming industry. The industry did not develop and the released nutria inhabit the areas in South America now. They are also rodents and are smaller than beavers but bigger than muskrats. They weigh about 10-20 lb (4.5-9.07 kg) and are almost 30 in (76.2 cm) long with their flattened tail of about 10 in (25.4 cm) long covered in sparse hair.

Are muskrats and beavers related?

Muskrats and beavers are both rodents and are one of the largest orders of mammals. Even then they don't belong to the same family.

Beavers belong to the Castoridae family that has the American beaver or the Eurasian beaver while the muskrats belong to the Cricetidae family, which includes hamsters, otters, and moles. Beavers and muskrats are not related to each other but have gone through convergent evolution where they share the same traits and behaviors. The characteristics of beavers and muskrats are similar at the first glance, but when differentiated everything is different. Starting from the size of the creature, their tails, feet, and covering their eating habits as well.

The characteristics of beavers and muskrats are similar

Can muskrat and beaver coexist?

Beavers and muskrats are not closely related to one another but share common behaviors and traits even when it comes to existence. The beaver and muskrats prefer to live in a land where the water level stays consistent. The beaver can build dams to prevent excess water from entering their homes, while the muskrats can't. Muskrats pile up a lot of branches and add a bit of mud to hold everything together in their lodge, while beavers use a lot of mud to glue everything together.

Sometimes muskrats can enter the beaver's dam and they can coexist as long as they stay out of each other's way. Both the beavers and muskrats are active in the evening and tend to avoid each other while feeding even though there is no competition for food. Muskrats and beavers cohabiting with each other also has its benefits as they can help each other by keeping an eye out for predators.

Are muskrats good for anything?

Muskrats are not fit to be human pets, as they can eat away at crops and block waterways, but they are quite helpful. Muskrats feed on aquatic plants and open areas of the waterways which helps other aquatic animals to swim and survive. The muskrat's lodge also helps the animals to use them as resting areas and or nests.

Muskrats are also quite helpful for the ecosystem as they are good for the predator populations. While they can be a nuisance to areas of vegetation, these animals tend to build their lodge in areas of natural dams that hold water and this loosens the area, destroying the source of water. Even then these mammals are quite helpful when they graze in certain lands as it influences the plant communities. Muskrats do not cut down or chew trees, sugar canes, or corn stalks like beavers.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for muskrat vs. beaver: the key differences between mammal rodents revealed then why not take a look at if dogs can eat peas or if French bulldogs can swim and why they may not be good swimmers.

Written By
Joan Agie

<p>With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.</p>

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