Round-tailed Muskrat

Scientific Name
Neofiber alleni
Also Known As
Florida Water Rat
Most of Florida, Except Panhandle
Aquatic Plants and Mollusks
Life Expectancy
1 - 2 Years
A Round-tailed Muskrat

Photo 278233221 (c) cupcakechef, CC BY-NC

Rount-tailed muskrat conservation status - endangered

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Round-tailed Muskrat (Florida Water Rat) in Central Florida

The Florida water rat (Neofiber alleni) is a semiaquatic rodent endemic to central and southern Florida.

Often confused with introduced rodents like the roof rat (Rattus rattus) and Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), the Florida water rat is distinguished by its smaller size, adaptations for swimming, and preference for wetland habitats.

This comprehensive guide provides detailed identification tips, biology facts, habitat information, diet, health risks, signs of infestation, and professional control methods for Florida water rats in central Florida.

Appearance and Identification

The Round-tailed Muskrat (Florida Water Rat) can be identified by the following key physical characteristics at different life stages

Adult round-tailed muskrat

Adult Florida Water Rat

  • Size: Adults reach 6-9 inches (15-23 cm) long from head to rump including a furred tail 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) long. Adult weight ranges from 1.5-3.5 ounces (40-100 grams).

  • Tail: The tail is furred and used as a rudder and propeller during swimming.
  • Fur: Adults have brown to grayish brown fur, often slightly lighter on the underside. The oily, dense coat is water resistant.
  • Feet: Long broad hind feet measuring 1-1.5 inches (2.5-4 cm) long propel swimming with a sideways paddling motion. The smaller forefeet are adapted for digging burrows, manipulating food, and grooming.

Juvenile Florida Water Rat

  • Size: Newborn Florida water rats are about 2 inches (5 cm) long from head to rump and weigh just 0.35 ounces (10 grams).

    They grow rapidly, reaching 3 inches (8 cm) long at 2 weeks old and 5 inches (13 cm) long plus a 2 inch (5 cm) tail by weaning age around 20 days old.

  • Fur: Juvenile fur is grayish brown in color. The fur is soft and dense to keep young rats warm in aquatic environments.

  • Features: Large hind feet, small ears, and blunt nose adapted for swimming and diving are present shortly after birth. The tail is furred.

Maturation Rate

Young Florida water rats develop and mature very quickly compared to many other rodents. They open their eyes by about 2 weeks old and are weaned by 20 days of age. Florida water rats reach adult size by 6 weeks old. Females begin breeding as early as just 6 weeks of age. Their rapid growth allows populations to quickly rebound after setbacks.

Habits and Behavior

Florida water rats are primarily nocturnal and crepuscular, most active around dawn and dusk. They construct extensive burrow systems with entrance holes measuring 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) in diameter in the banks of ponds, lakes, marshes, swamps, canals, and other waterways.

Their home range is relatively small, often less than 300 square feet (30 square meters). Florida water rats are solitary and territorial animals, with both sexes defending distinct home ranges. They are powerful swimmers and divers, foraging underwater for up to 15 minutes.

Florida water rats can run on land but are slow and awkward moving out of water.

Reproduction and Lifespan

The breeding season for Florida water rats runs from March to November, with peak breeding in April and May. Females can have 1-2 litters per year of 1-6 young. Gestation lasts around 27 days. Young Florida water rats grow rapidly, reaching adult size by 6 weeks old. They are sexually mature and begin breeding as early as 6 weeks of age. Typical lifespan in the wild is 1-2 years.