Naturalist Notes: February, 2017

The muskrat is one of the many mammals that reside at the Closter Nature Center. These interesting rodents, like their cousin the beaver,
are aquatic and have adaptations that help them survive and thrive in the winter. The Nature Center’s ponds and streams are the perfect habitat for the muskrat, which has fur that stays dry and warm even while underwater, and webbed hind feet for locomotion. They get to be about two feet long, with their long scaly tails, and have blackish-brown glossy hair.
Although muskrats are mostly nocturnal, they can be seen year-round swimming in the water, leaping into the pond when alarmed, and munching vegetation at the pond’s edge. Muskrats make pond and streamside burrows that are about 6 inches in diameter, and can be as long as 50 feet!
A while back, out with some kids, we watched a muskrat at the edge of the pond carefully digging up a small clump of grass. Once his future meal was secured in his mouth, he darted to the pond and then quickly submerged. Since muskrats can hold their breath for as long as 15 minutes, a short swim to his underwater burrow was amazing to the kids and me, but just another moment in the life of a muskrat.

See you on the trails,

Marc Gussen, Naturalist

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