The muskrat and beaver are two different species of semi-aquatic rodents, although they share some similarities due to their lifestyle and ecological role. In Belarus, both of these mammals are widespread and can be seen in almost all regions of the country. In this article, we will try to figure out how these animals differ, how they are similar and which ones to distinguish.
Appearance and size
Muskrat (lat. Ondatra zibethicus) has a more graceful body and muzzle compared to the beaver. Its dimensions are usually smaller, the body length is about 30-40 cm, and the weight is about 0,5-1,5 kilograms. The coat comes in a variety of shades including browns, blacks and greys. Quite often, the muskrat is confused with another semi-aquatic rodent - the nutria.
Beaver (lat. Castor fiber) - larger and more massive than the muskrat. Their dimensions are approximately 60-130 centimeters in length, and sometimes their weight even exceeds 30 kilograms. The beaver has a larger build, short legs and a pointed muzzle. For example, it is not difficult to distinguish a beaver from a muskrat on the shore.
The tail of the muskrat is longer, flatter and narrower, somewhat similar to the tail of a rat, used for swimming and balancing. The beaver's tail is short, dense and flat, covered with scales. It serves as an important tool for moving through the water and helps the beaver maintain its balance.
Muskrats are more often found in fresh water bodies, such as lakes, swamps and rivers, where they dig holes and peculiar huts that are difficult to see for humans. Beavers also live in fresh water, but their characteristic dams and lairs create new aquatic habitats and influence the hydrology of the region.
Muskrats are active both during the day and at night. They often swim and dive to find food and shelter. Beavers are most often active at night. Their engineering skills are manifested in the construction of dams and lairs, which create more complex structures than those of muskrats.
The main food of the muskrat are plants such as algae, reeds and others. Sometimes they can feed on mollusks, insects and even small fish. Beavers also feed on vegetation, including tree bark, twigs, grasses, and other plants.
While the muskrat and beaver share some similarities, their anatomy, behavior, and role in the ecosystem are different, making them unique species in the animal kingdom.