The Turskel is a large, ground dwelling rodent ranging in size between fifteen to twenty inches from nose to base of tail in size and fifteen to twenty pounds. They have proportionally long bodies when compared to most other rodents. They are covered in rich brown fur with white undersides that extend from their muzzle down to the base of their tails. The fur is made of short, hollow shafts that insulate the animal from the cold. At the base of each hair are specialized glands that excrete an oil that coats each shaft to repel water, allowing the animal to swim in near freezing winter river without chilling.
The ears are small and are able to fold in such a way as to create a seal when underwater. The nostrils are large and also able to close when the Turskel is submerged. Long yellow teeth are utilized by the animal to shred and consume a wide variety of plant matter, including bark, twigs, roots, and nuts.
The front limbs of the animal are short and end in small, dextrous paws with four digits that can easily grasp and manipulate rocks, seeds, nuts, or whatever else the animal may need to hold or move. The hind limbs are powerful and connected to wide, flat feet with three digits, useful both for swimming and excavating the river banks where the Turskel calls home. Both sets of paws are barren of fur, webbed with a thick membrane and tipped with claws.
The tail is wide and makes up roughly two fifths of the total body length. It is heavily furred and the Turskel uses it both as a rudder when swimming and as a location to store winter fat reserves. An old-wives’ tale claims that the thickness of the Turskel tails will predict how long the upcoming winter will last; “Thick Turskel tails tell of hard winter gales.”
The native range of the Turskel is limited to the northern half to the Turskel River in the Copper Lake region. The creatures dig their dens into the soft clay of the river banks, though often competition for prefered locations forces lower ranking Turskel away from the water’s edge. The Turskel cannot be found anywhere else on TerVarus and samples taken from the area rarely survive. It is believed that there is a particular mineral vital to their survival in the clay of the area.
The Turskel are slow and cumbersome on land, but agile and quick in the water. Because of this, they prefer to remain close to the river so that they can escape quickly from predators. They are shy creatures that dive into their dens or under the surface of the water at the first suspicion of danger. They can remain under the surface of the water for up to five minutes.
When the river freezes over during the coldest parts of winter, the Turskel hibernate in their dens and survive off the fat stored in their tails.
Turskel are prolific breeders and produce offspring throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Litter sizes range from three to ten and the offspring are born fully furred and prepared to survive on their own. However they do remain with the mother for up to a month before leaving to establish their own dens.
Turskel are omnivores, consuming a wide variety of plant life and insects though they show a marked preference for aquatic plants and roots. They have been known to strip bark from trees growing close to the river’s edge. In the fall they can be sighted at the forest’s edge, eating both nuts and various fruits.
Though Turskel do have natural predators, the largest threat against the species are humans who trap them both for their furs and their tails. Due to the water-repellant and heat-retaining qualities of their fur, Turskel skins are in high demand with those in the colder, northern climates. The fat of the tail is considered a delicacy due to its rich, nutty flavor. The actual meat of the animal is tough and gamey, so there isn’t much of a market for it.