Nature’s broad range of living creatures never fails to captivate us, and among them are fascinating animals that look like muskrats. From their physical characteristics to their habitats and behaviors, these species share similarities that can leave us amazed at their adaptations and evolutionary paths.
Even though some of the below may never actually cross paths with a muskrat, let’s learn about some of their lookalikes that can be found in a variety of habitats.
12 Animals that look like muskrats
Scientific Name: Myocastor coypus
The nutria is a large, herbivorous rodent that resembles a muskrat in appearance. Their huge, brilliant orange-yellow incisors, white patch on the muzzle, and webbed hind feet are some of the distinguishing characteristics that set them apart from other rodents.
These animals are larger than muskrats, weighing 4-9 kg (9-20 lbs) with a body length of 40-60 cm (16-24 in) and a tail length of 30–45 cm (12–18 in). While muskrats are more cold-tolerant and have flattened tails for swimming, nutrias have round tails.
2. Water vole
Scientific Name: Arvicola amphibius
The European water vole is an intriguing semi-aquatic rodent that resembles muskrats but has specific characteristics. The fur of a water vole is dark brown, their faces are plump, and their ears are shorter and softer. Their tails, compared to those of muskrats, are coated in fur.
The average lifespan of a water vole living in its natural environment is approximately five months, making it one of the shortest-lived mammals. However, they have been known to live for as long as 2.5 years when kept in captivity.
Scientific Name: Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
If you see an animal resembling a muskrat, it could be a capybara. This animal is a huge rodent from South America and is the biggest living rodent species. Capybaras have a large, barrel-shaped body, a small head, and reddish-brown, then yellowish-brown fur on their upper bodies.
They grow up to 106 to 134 cm (3.48 to 4.40 ft) in length and weigh between 35 to 66 kg (77 to 146 lbs). The hind legs of capybaras are longer than the forelegs, and their feet exhibit a little webbed pattern. Due to their comparable body shapes and aquatic capabilities, they have been described as looking like muskrats.
Scientific Name: Castor canadensis
Beavers are large, semiaquatic rodents found in the Northern Hemisphere. They feature broad, muscular bodies, huge heads, long teeth that resemble chisels, brown or gray fur, hands-like front feet, webbed back feet, and flat, scaly tails. Beavers, like muskrats, live in freshwater habitats such as rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds.
They also eat tree bark, aquatic plants, grasses, and sedges. While there are distinct differences between beavers and muskrats, such as their larger size and distinct tail shape, their overall semi-aquatic adaptations can lead to occasional similarities in appearance.
Scientific Name: Marmota caligata
Marmots are another group of animals that bear a resemblance to muskrats. Among them is the hoary marmot found in the mountains of northwest North America.
Marmots and muskrats have distinct differences, but they can sometimes appear similar in terms of their overall appearance and size. However, you can identify marmots by their large size and bulky bodies.
They also have short and heavy limbs and a broad head with shoulders and upper back that are silver-gray in color, while the rest of their upper parts have drab or reddish-brown fur. You’ll also notice that marmots possess slightly curved claws and a long tail that’s flattened and covered in dense fur.
6. Sea otter
Scientific Name: Enhydra lutris
Sea otters are marine mammals that can be mistaken for muskrats, especially when they’re in the water, because they look similar. However, you may notice that these animals have a body shape that’s long and streamlined, which is adapted for swimming. Sea otters are the heaviest members of the weasel family, weighing between 14 and 45 kg (30 and 100 lbs) when they’re adults.
These species have dense fur that keeps them warm in cold water environments, just like muskrats. They don’t have blubber, so they rely on their exceptionally thick fur to stay warm. Sea otters live only in the ocean and dive to the sea floor to find marine invertebrates.
Scientific Name: Vombatus ursinus
Wombats are native to Australia and have a similar face shape to muskrats, but they have a stout build. Adults of this species are about 1 meter (40 inches) long and weigh between 20 and 35 kg (44 and 77 lbs). Their tails are small and stubby, and their thick fur can be sandy, brown, gray, or black.
Wombats dig extensive burrow systems using their powerful claws and rodent-like front teeth. They have a characteristic pouch facing backward and are primarily nocturnal feeders who consume grasses, sedges, herbs, bark, and roots.
Scientific Name: Marmota monax
Groundhogs, also called woodchucks, are big ground squirrels that belong to the marmot family and can be found all over North America. These animals are known for living in lowlands, and they’re significant for keeping the soil in forests and fields healthy.
Although they live in groups, groundhogs are solitary animals, and the structure of their social relationships differs from community to population. They weigh between 2 and 6.3 kg and have a sturdy physique with powerful legs and long claws that are well-adapted for digging.
Scientific Name: Hydromys chrysogaster
The rakali, also called the rabe or water-rat, is a rodent native to Australia. It lives near water and is active at night, residing in burrows along riverbanks, lakes, and estuaries.
Their body is streamlined, and their tail is thick, reaching 242-345 millimeters. You’ll also notice their hind legs are partially webbed, their fur is waterproof, their head is flattened, and they have a long blunt nose.
They have fur that can be black or brown, with a belly that’s orange or white. Their tail is dark with a white tip. Rakalis have water-repellent fur and partly webbed hind feet, which helps them thrive in an aquatic environment.
10. Black rat
Scientific Name: Rattus rattus
Another animal that you may notice looking like a muskrat is the black rat. They’re a widespread long-tailed rodent found worldwide with a generalist omnivorous diet and are regarded as a major pest to farmers due to their ability to graze on a wide variety of agricultural products.
It can exhibit color variations, ranging from black to light brown with a lighter underside. You’ll also see that they have a scraggly coat of black fur and are slightly smaller than the brown rat.
11. Field voles
Scientific Name: Microtus agrestis
Field voles may also be misidentified as muskrats in the wild due to their dense fur. However, they’re small rodents with a grey-brown coloration and measure around 10 cm in length, including their short tail. Field voles are also found throughout Europe and live in moist grassy areas like woodlands, marshes, and riverbanks.
Although they create shallow burrows, they primarily build nests above ground. Predators like owls also rely on them as a significant food source, and they breed frequently, with females producing up to seven litters a year.
12. Pocket gopher
Scientific Name: Geomys bursarius
Pocket gophers, known for their extensive tunneling activities, are burrowing rodents that are endemic to North and Central America. They’re distinguished by their small size, weighing about 200 g (1/2 lb), with a body length of 15-20 cm (6-8 in), and a tiny tail reaching 2.5-5 cm (1-2 in).
You’ll also see that they have brown fur that blends with the soil color in their habitat. They have small eyes and keen claws for digging, and one of their distinguishing characteristics is their cheek pouches, from which they get their name.