The muskrat is not a true rat, but is more closely related to meadow mice / voles. It derives its name from the musk glands present at the base of its tail, and these are used during mating activities for marking territories. They will live in nearly any aquatic habitat that provides year round food and water, including irrigation ditches. They burrow into the banks of canals where their burrowing can cause weakening of canal and ditch banks. They also may construct “houses” from vegetation, and these are their primary residence in winter months. They are primarily vegetarians, feeding on any plant materials growing in or near the water, but also may feed on aquatic animals such as frogs, fish, crayfish, or shellfish. They breed prolifically, with breeding throughout the year in warm regions and from March to October in cooler areas. Gestation takes 1 month and young are weaned and on their own at 1 month of age, at which time the mother may mate again. From 3 to 11 young are born in a litter.
Trapping is the primary means for controlling muskrat populations that are causing problems, and they are a primary fur-bearing animal in North America.