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Introduction of Muskrat Into Europe. (Ondatra zibethica). Physical Characteristics. Muskrats are about 12 inches long. They weigh roughly 2 to 4 pounds. They have long rusty brown hairs with very dense silky under fur. The belly side is lighter colored.

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Introduction of Muskrat Into Europe

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physical characteristics
Physical Characteristics
  • Muskrats are about 12 inches long.
  • They weigh roughly 2 to 4 pounds.
  • They have long rusty brown hairs with very dense silky under fur.
  • The belly side is lighter colored.
  • They have a sideways flattened tail and long web like hairs on their hind feet.

Muskrat Skull

some interesting facts
Some Interesting Facts
  • Muskrats got their name because they have musk glands that produce a strong scent.
  • Muskrats can stay under water for almost 15 minutes without taking a breath.
  • Muskrats got small ears which can be closed under water.
  • They are able to gnaw under water because their lips can be sealed behind their yellow incisor teeth.

Muskrat Family

  • Muskrats normally live in family groups consisting of a male and female pair and their young.
  • During the spring they often fight with other muskrats over territory and potential mates.
  • Many are injured or killed in these fights.

Newborn Muskrats

  • Females can have 2 to 3 litters a year of 6 to 8 young each.
  • The babies are born small and hairless and weigh only about 0.8 oz.
  • In southern environments young muskrats mature in 6 months, while in colder northern environments it takes about a year.
nest site
Nest Site

Example of a snowy opening to a Muskrat Lodge

  • Muskrat families build nests to protect themselves and the young from cold and predators.
  • Extensive burrow systems are dug in the ground adjacent to the water with an underwater entrance.
  • In marshes, lodges are constructed from vegetation and mud.
  • In snowy areas they keep the openings to their lodges open by plugging them with vegetation which they replace every day.
native habitat
Native Habitat
  • The muskrat is native across all of North America, and Canada.
introduction to europe
Introduction to Europe
  • The muskrat was introduced to Europe by Prince Colloredo-Mannsfield, who released five individuals in a pond on his estate near Prague, now in the Czech Republic, following a hunting expedition to Alaska.
  • It is likely that all of the millions of muskrats in Europe and northern Asia are the descendants of these animals
why was it introduced
Why Was It Introduced??

Muskrat Blanket

  • Muskrat fur is very warm and of good quality, and the trapping of muskrats for their fur became an important industry in the early Twentieth Century.
  • At that time muskrats were introduced to Europe as a fur resource.
  • Muskrat fur was specially trimmed and dyed and called "hudson seal" fur, and sold widely in the United States in the early twentieth century.

Muskrat Coat

Muskrat Hat

current range in europe n a
Current Range in Europe & N.A.

RED= Native Range of Muskrat

GREEN= Introduced Range of Muskrat

ecological effects of muskrat in europe
Ecological Effects of Muskrat in Europe
  • Muskrats can cause problems because of their habit to dig their dens in banks and dikes.
  • One muskrat will dig out 1 cubic meter of soil in one year.
  • This constant digging can pose a threat to the strength of the dike.
  • Muskrats can also ruin water plants in ponds by eating them or by digging out roots.
  • In artificial ponds and swimming pools muskrats can gnaw holes in the liner and cause damage by doing so.
economic importance
Economic Importance
  • Where muskrats are abundant, trapping can have a significant economic impact, providing important employment for people living in rural environments.
  • Millions of muskrats are trapped each year, and muskrats are one of the economically most important wild fur-bearing animals in North America.

Muskrat Trapping

management implications
Management Implications
  • Where muskrats are too numerous, trapping is the most satisfactory means of control.
  • In some areas it may be possible to modify the banks to make them less favorable to muskrats.  Muskrats can be prevented from burrowing into banks by reducing the slope or covering banks with rip-rap. 
  • Wire netting or chain link fencing placed along banks may prevent muskrats from burrowing into the bank and thus be used to protect sensitive areas.