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Beavers or muskrats?

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Published on Mar 26, 2012

I spent a few hours at Lake Renwick nature preserve in Plainfield, IL filming what I believed to be beavers. After watching the footage, I'm no longer so sure they were beavers: I noticed the thick straight tail on some of the animals which led me to a bit of research online... Apparently, these animals are muskrats, not beavers. However, in the same area I noticed fallen trees and other trees damaged by beaver teeth. I still think there are beavers at Lake Renwick, but apparently I had not encountered them. From what I've read, muskrats are not known to bring trees down the way beavers do. All signs point to there being beavers in the area besides muskrats...

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About muskrats, from Wikipedia:
The muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus), the only species in genus Ondatra, is a medium-sized semi-aquatic rodent native to North America, and introduced in parts of Europe, Asia, and South America. The muskrat is found in wetlands and is a very successful animal over a wide range of climates and habitats. It plays an important role in nature and is a resource of food and fur for humans, as well as being an introduced species in much of its present range.

The muskrat is the largest species in the subfamily Arvicolinae, which includes 142 other species of rodents, mostly voles and lemmings. Muskrats are referred to as "rats" in a general sense because they are medium-sized rodents with an adaptable lifestyle and an omnivorous diet. They are not, however, so-called "true rats", that is, members of the genus Rattus.

An adult muskrat is about 40 to 60 cm (16 to 24 inches) long, almost half of that tail, and weighs from 0.7 to 1.8 kg (1.5 to 4 lb). That is about four times the weight of the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus), though an adult muskrat is only slightly longer. Muskrats are much smaller than beavers (Castor canadensis), with whom they often share their habitat.

Muskrats are covered with short, thick fur which is medium to dark brown or black in color with the belly a bit lighter but as the age increases it turns a partly gray in color. The fur has two layers, which helps protect them from the cold water. They have long tails which are covered with scales rather than hair and to aid them in swimming are slightly flattened vertically;[5] which is a shape that is unique only to muskrats.[6] When they walk on land the tail drags on the ground, which makes their tracks easy to recognize.

About beavers, from Wikipedia:
The beaver (genus Castor) is a primarily nocturnal, large, semi-aquatic rodent. Castor includes two extant species, North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) (native to North America) and Eurasian Beaver (Castor fiber) (Eurasia). Beavers are known for building dams, canals, and lodges (homes). They are the second-largest rodent in the world (after the capybara). Their colonies create one or more dams to provide still, deep water to protect against predators, and to float food and building material. The North American beaver population was once more than 60 million, but as of 1988 was 6--12 million. This population decline is due to extensive hunting for fur, for glands used as medicine and perfume, and because their harvesting of trees and flooding of waterways may interfere with other land uses.

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