My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!

Are Muskrats being territorial or just having fun

Yesterday, I truly enjoyed my walk around Red House Lake in the warm sunny weather. I saw numerous birds including Dark-eyed Juncos, Tufted Titmouse, American Tree Sparrows, and even some Horned Grebes. In the area that I call “duck pond” there were 11 or so Mallards feeding in the weeds.

Mallard pair quickly taking flight

Something didn’t appear to be right with these Mallards due to a majority of the ducks were ignoring me and swimming aroundmuskrat and mallards in an almost circle direction. A few did take flight but there were others that just held their ground. I knew this couldn’t be a game of duck-duck-goose; so the binoculars came out for a closer inspection. To my surprise there was a Muskrat chasing the Mallards around the pond! I have always understood that Muskrats are commonly found in areas the dabbling ducks like to feed and that they are mainly herbivores (but on occasion will feed on crayfish, ect). Could this muskrat be looking for a quick meal?? I doubt it!! But, I never expected to see such persistency in this mammal moving these ducks away from this particular area. It almost became comical to watch.

muskrat and mallard

The Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) gets its name from a musky aroma which follows them around into their grass lined dens. I questioned if this Muskrat was having fun or just being very protective of its territory. Numerous of the field guides that I have been flipping through do note that they are very territorial and one did note that they “have been observed chasing away dabbling ducks”. Doesn’t matter what the books say, this Muskrat appeared to be having fun to me!! I think that over the winter months that I need to keep an eye on this musky furry friend.  (Did the best I could photographing the Muskrat through the trees)

18 responses

  1. Marg

    Wow-that was a cool site to see-muskrats are cute little guys, darn those trees always getting in photographers ways.

    I wonder if we ever get Tufted Titmouse (would it be mice then 😉 I’ve never seen one, and they look so darn cute. Congrats on seeing the Grebes too.

    27 November 2006 at 4:16 pm

  2. Thanks Marg, Tonight I will have to post my Titmouse pictures I took! Those even have a branch in the way! Tree’s are always in the way! Thanks for visiting!

    27 November 2006 at 4:26 pm

  3. thehendricksreport

    Hey man,

    really enjoy your site and what you are doing here. I have started visiting daily. Good luck with the owl project…

    29 November 2006 at 8:20 pm

  4. Thanks for visiting hendricksreport!! I am done with the Owl Project and will sum up everything in the next day or two!

    29 November 2006 at 11:40 pm

  5. thehendricksreport

    Hey glad you enjoyed my site. Have been working really hard to try to make it alittle different. Will be looking forward to the Owl Project results in the coming days.

    I just seen that we are gettin ready to get hit with our first (possibly BIG taste) of winter this year in Indiana…2 inches of snow tomorrow and up to 10 the next day…ouch…get ready it is coming your way…..

    30 November 2006 at 12:03 am

  6. Marg

    LOL at trees, they do have a habit of doing that

    still no sign of snow here…… fact suppose to have high 60’s here today

    30 November 2006 at 4:40 am

  7. Sorry to hear about the snow hendricksreport – we are also in the mid 60’s today. Marg – I always seem to get those trees in the way!

    30 November 2006 at 7:38 am

  8. thehendricksreport

    We are getting close to a 40 degree drop between tonight and tomorrow…..right now it is 62 degrees….calling for a high of 30 tomorrow…

    30 November 2006 at 7:56 am

  9. How cute. I love to watch the antics of animals in the great outdoors. I used to spend hours watching the ducks on the pond where I grew up. Fascinating.

    30 November 2006 at 12:09 pm

  10. Muskrat's Pal

    Yes they do that! I have an irrigation canal just off my deck. Its very old and looks more like a stream with trees lining it’s banks. I started feeding the welfare mallards a corn barley and molasses mix. Soon the muskrats were into as well. Then I started giving the muskrats apples and carrots. It’s been two years and finally there are two of them who will come when I call them. “rat rat” “rat rat”. One will take carrots from my hand through the chain link fence.

    I have seen them chase the ducks. usually its when they are competing for food. They ducks stay just ahead of the muskrat. until that is Mr. rat dives under then the ducks scatter. It’s kind of like watching pacman.

    15 May 2007 at 11:21 pm

  11. Just came back from a 15-minute walk on my coffee break from work, during which I circled a small pond near the office, where lo and behold, I saw a muskrat chasing a mallard around for about 10 minutes! Found your wonderful site when I came in and Googled “Muskrat chasing duck”. I couldn’t figure it out either, as it didn’t seem territorial – they went all over the pond. I may be anthropomorphising, but it sure looked to me like a game just for fun. (And you can’t convince me that otters sliding in the snow in Yellowstone are not just having fun body skiing!…)
    Thanks for your interesting observations… I’ll check back in now that I know about you.
    Lorraine, Boulder, CO

    14 November 2007 at 4:43 pm

  12. Wow, how fun Lorraine!! I do remember this day and know exactly how you feel when you saw them! Glad we connected!

    14 November 2007 at 9:39 pm

  13. Phil Smith

    Just saw a muskrat going after a Gadwall pair in the marsh that I can see from my house (on the Olympic Pennnisula). It did this for several minutes. Like Lorraine, I had to google to see if any one esle has seen this behavior. It’s interesting that other people have seen this behavior.

    17 January 2008 at 8:20 pm

  14. @ Phil – so glad you found this and shared your experience with everyone! They are amazing creatures and who says they can’t have fun! I sure hope you take some time check out some other post that I have and share some comments! Please return!

    17 January 2008 at 9:07 pm

  15. JoAnn Otto

    I just saw the exact same thing on a cold November afternoon in Wisconsin. I was wondering who would get worn out first. The muskrat didn’t give up until all the ducks flew out of pond. I was a little afraid for the ducks until I googled your site. Thanks so much for the information. Now I can enjoy the antics.

    16 November 2008 at 7:03 pm

  16. RDC3

    Just this morning I noticed a pair of Mallard ducks in a swamp and it looked as if the male was towing something. He suddenly took flight and the “tow” suddenly peeled off – sure enough, it was a large muskrat! It continued to harass the original ducks and another pair for the better part of the morning. Actually, the ducks seemed to give back just as well as they got – all in all, it was most amusing.

    Thanks for posting your experience and helping me make sense of mine.

    2 April 2009 at 9:52 pm

  17. Jbet

    What fun to find others that saw the same behavior! I saw this behavior this afternoon- in a park marsh-land near Madison Wisconsin. Two young muskrat chasing after mallards. The more quacking and disruption the more the muskrats seemed to enjoy it- as if they were a couple of bored hoodlums who decide to stir things up by harassing the “locals”.

    Thanks for posting about this humorous behavior. (I think I would have been a little disappointed had I found it was explained by some survival instinct).

    19 October 2010 at 11:20 pm

  18. Cindy

    I just went to a suburban manmade pond in Englewood, CO, by my office and saw a muskrat chasing Canada geese all around the pond. They would fly away from him and he would move on to bugging the next group of geese. It was very entertaining! My husband and I concluded that the muskrat was just being a pest, since the geese were not even close to where it seemed to hang out (when it wasn’t chasing the birds).

    28 September 2012 at 2:50 pm

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