Water rat

Water rat
Image: JJ Harrison
Community type

Saline shrubland

Habitat type

Saltmarsh and tidal flats

The water rat is a native species to Australia and is widespread and common across most of the country. They occur in a range of aquatic habitats from subalpine streams to coastal beaches. Water rats are nocturnal, and are very shy, ducking for cover before you get a chance to see them. More often their presence is determined by the distinctive footprints they leave in the mud – their large hind feet are partly webbed. Water rats often bring their food to a regular feeding platform to eat, and leave behind a pile or ‘midden’ of inedible animal parts. They mainly fed along the edge of the water and in adjacent vegetation, but can dive underwater to catch prey. Major foods are aquatic invertebrates, frogs and fish, but they also eat small birds. Water rats are highly adapted to aquatic life and very good swimmers. For example, their fur is very dense and shiny to repel water, their ears are set high on the head, and their long robust tail is used as a rudder. Water rats are much larger than other rats, and differ as their tail is furry and has a white tip.

Much of the text within the species area of our website was written by Veronica Thorpe, as part of the Derwent River Wildlife Guide (2000).

The DEP has developed a variety of classroom and outdoor activities focused around the key estuary habitats of tidal wetlands, salt marshes and rocky reefs. These include classroom materials, online resources, interpretive walks, games and sensory experiences.