Muskrat / Bisam / Ondatra zibethicus

A chance meeting on high ground. He made speed to get back into the water and away from me! / Ein zufaelliges Treffen weit vom Ufer. Er beeilte sich sehr wieder in's Wasser und weg von mir zu kommen!

14 comments so far...

Fizgig plus March 28, 2017, 12:44 PM
Nice catch! Strange little creatures...
Sonja March 28, 2017, 01:43 PM
Well, they are actually yours, I fear. They just live in our marshes too as humans brought them to europe for the fur. The Pfrungen population is however much more secretive than those in the average metropark in the USA. I had 4 sightings since 2004. Almost spraining the ankle stepping into a sudden deep hole gracing the embankment paths is more common than to ever get a glimpse of the builder.
Fizgig plus March 29, 2017, 05:17 AM
Yeah, they are native to the USA.... I don't recall ever seeing one, though -- at least not in the US. Did see one in the wild in my native Europe, though.
Sonja March 29, 2017, 10:41 AM
How strange you never saw one in the US, but then, I dont kno how New York is about that. I spent only one weekend in that city, we mostly lived based in the Great Lakes area and most free days where spent as far from the city as possible . Anyway, when ever we went to some metropark, state game area or somesuch green reserve with much water, there where usually also muskrats, often rather bold ones, doing begging antics all openly. I have heared rumors about very few places in germany where they learned to live as tame waterside park attraction, but it is a rare thing and usually there is also strong opposition to rat feeding as passtime, to be seen in comments below YouTube video footage of people encouraging the little misscreants to sit with them and share their snacks.
Fizgig plus March 29, 2017, 02:55 PM
I think they may be more common in the southern states where there are more bayous and other wetland type areas. I do a LOT of traveling for both work and for hiking -- also have a vacation home in the Pocono Mountains..... Seen lots of beavers, but never one of these giant rats. Go figure... Though I will say I'm NOT much of a fan of the climate in the southern US states, so I don't do as much exploring in the wilderness there and I have a feeling that's where most of these critters can be found. It's not out of the realm of possibility, of course, that they do roam around in area with beaver activity.... But, here in the States, they would have more natural predators, too --- alligators, coyotes & raptors in particular --- to keep their numbers in check.
Sonja March 30, 2017, 01:45 PM
We went south a few times for vacations while in the USA, but always in winter when it is not so hot. They have the really huge rats there, the nutrias, which are also a problem neozoe in southern France and in the Po Delta, but those are also in the USA not really natives. Nutria are huge, like an adult fully grown beaver just with a slim tail, Musk Rats are big when compared to regular sewer rats, but not that obscenely, just little vouminous fur balls....
The Muskrats are living all the way up in the lakes, rivers and wetlands, deep into Canada, like on Lake Nipigon and even further up. I do not recall my most southernmost sighting for sure, just that it was somewhere by the coast not yet in Florida, Perhaps Harris Neck NWR.. later down I think none, guess rather outcompeted by the Nutria than killed by the heat or the gators.

In Saint Louis where we where in the very beginning, we had only sewer rats (Rattus norvegicus) nearby, but there where musk rats and their mounds to observe when we went for outings in the greater vincity...

Most of our years in the USA we lived well north of Detroit, first in Troy, then in Shelby Twp. My husband worked for an automation technology company that orgined in Germany, and they had many customer companies with production sites further down near the city, but they had built their own american headquarters rather far from Detroit in Sterling Heights. In the end we had a condo very close to a metro park in a very new complex of houses looking much older in a landscaped setting, all picture perfect with fountains in the artificial ponds, clipped bushes and a perfect lawn that was all the time treated with some spray chemicals and then flagged with warnings. Still we had always many gray squirrels and chipmunks surviving to cross that evil lawn, and now and then the odd muskrat even larger critter to observe right by the house, and at the metropark's nature center area, just a mile or so west from us was the next official mound of relaxed muskrats not afraid of people watching them in the daylight and a very high density of tame deer and many other critters. For us it was a long car ride to get there, almost 5 miles, out of our gate and down the road, u-turn and up again and then to the park gate and on the circle drive... a strange world where one could get absolutely nowhere on foot legally and safely, yet the animals from the metro park managed to get into our comunity through some wayless private propperty wilderness, eat the landscape shubbery and open the trashbags. Management was busy to record damages and arrange for replanting things, clean up and the varmit catcher to come to those that complained of something scary sitting in their garage, in spite of marketing saying it's the close to nature lifestyle -- LOL . I hope the ratties do still well there.

Andy Rodker March 31, 2017, 11:15 PM
I have learnt more about US suburban wildlife than I ever knew there was to learn!
I don't think we get muskrats in Britain or Spain and therefore I've never seen one (but I could be mistaken and they could live in one or other or both).
Have a good weekend and all best wishes,
Sonja April 03, 2017, 06:47 AM
Andy, I did never see a muskrat in Spain, but I recall Nutria around some nature park visitor centre in the Donana, the modern one on stilts in the water where the cranes winter. How the rest of spain fares with non-native pelt rodents I do not know from own observation, but knowing some french wetlands in the west of the Camargue I bet Nutria live not only in the Donana but along the whole coast where ever estuaries provide a habitat.
Andy Rodker April 03, 2017, 08:53 PM
Nutria = otter in English and yes they are common throughout Europe including Great Britain. I used to see a few in Scotland in the 80s, at a time when they were severely persecuted. So I was lucky. Now protected, they have had a very good comeback and are now relatively numerous in England, Wales and Scotland. I don't think they ever colonised Ireland but I could be wrong.
Fizgig plus April 04, 2017, 01:21 AM
Otters are a whole diff't animal.... Muskrats are in the rodent family, Otters are in the weasel family. They're not even related.
Andy Rodker April 04, 2017, 03:55 PM
Indeed they are, Fizgig, but when the conversation turned to nutrias / otters for some reason, I just added my ha'penceworth. Sorry!!
Sonja April 09, 2017, 11:48 AM
Andy, those are of course very different animals..... A nutria looks like a huge muskrat and is much shorter, even from afar easy to tell appart from an otter. What is not so easy to tell apart is the mere furs, soft luxurious and quite waterrepellant, when already made into a wearable shape without recognizable parts, so names got deliberatly a bit confused for some purposes, but that is all about fashion selling when furs where still en vogue, not a zoological thing.
Long ago in the medieval times there were clothing rules for recognizing peoples ranks. When they finally fell and any affluent people without any nobility titles cold wear what ever they could afford to show off, pretty and prestigous otter pelt got very rare and high in demand soon. This is how nutria from the new world became "other otter". ;o)
Fizgig plus April 09, 2017, 01:58 PM
Also, rodents breed more prolifically.... In the USA, many otter species were driven to extinction due to the fur trade. The ones that weren't completely gone were exceedingly rare --- as was/is the case with a few other members of the weasel family. Ecological consequences were dire in the wake of their disappearances, too. A few species of otters are, unfortunately, still threatened. Now due more to irresponsible human activities within their habitats -- i.e. oil spills, damming of rivers, pollution at unprecedented levels, etc.
Andy Rodker April 09, 2017, 08:34 PM
All very interesting! Thank you both!!!
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