- Photo credit: @Alan D. Wilson
- Ondatra zibethicus
- Common Names:
- Inland surface water habitats, mires, bogs, fens, heath, scrub, and tundra
- The muskrat is a large, brown, stocky rodent, and has a hairless tail.
- Origin and Worldwide Distribution:
- The species was originally introduced for fur farming in the early 1900s but has since escaped or been deliberately released into the wild.
- It is currently established Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden.
- In the 1930s, it was successfully eradicated in Ireland and the United Kingdom.
- Potential or Known Impacts:
- Muskrats are a fast growing, gregarious species, with a high reproductive potential and a nomadic lifestyle, which makes them highly adaptable to different freshwater environments.
- They change the composition and structure of native wetland vegetation, which in turn affects aquatic invertebrates and destroys fish nurseries.
- Their burrowing activities degrade river banks and affect river flow.
- They can also exert a strong predation pressure on endangered species such as the freshwater pearl mussel.
- The economic impact of the muskrat is no less significant. It causes extensive damage to crops, irrigation systems, roads, railroads, dams and flood protection systems.
- How did it/could it get here?
- Originally from fur-farming but escaped.
- Is it found in Ireland or Northern Ireland?
- Although it was previously eradicated and not deemed established in Ireland, this species has been recorded in 2015 in Co Cork.
- It hasn't been recorded in Northern Ireland. More information can be found at NBDC.
- Methods for Prevention:
- Union level action includes a ban on keeping and selling, a rapid eradication of newly establishing populations and containment of the invasion, especially keeping them out of protected areas
- Current Legislative Position (Listed on 03 August 2017) This species must not intentionally be brought into the Union; kept; bred; transported to, from or within the United Kingdom, unless for the transportation to facilities in the context of eradication; placed on the market; used or exchanged; permitted to reproduce, grown or cultivated; or released into the environment. For further queries, you can contact the Non Native Invasive Species Team in the Northern Ireland Environment Agency on 028 9056 9558.