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Ondatra zibethicus - Muskrat

French name:  Rat musqué
Dutch name: Muskusrat
Family: Muridae
Group: Mammals
Origin: North America
Habitat: freshwater
Introduction:  fur farming
ISEIA Score : 12
Naturalization in Belgium
First observation in the wild: 1928
Invasion stage: spread
Spatial distribution: widespread
Reproduction in the wild: yes
Dispersion potential: high
Natural habitats: high
More on invasiveness: Riparian zones and wetlands.
Distribution in Belgium
Established populations
absent from district
isolated populations (1-5 localities per district)
widespread (>5 localities per district)

Impacts on Species
Predation / Herbivory: high
Competition: likely
Disease transmission: likely
Genetic effects: low
Impacts on Ecosystems
Nutrient cycling: medium
Physical alteration: high
Natural successions: high
Food web alteration: likely
More on impacts: Overgrazing by muskrat causes the local extinction of aquatic plants and the destruction of reedbeds and fish nursery areas. Due to its burrowing activity, it degrades river banks and affects river flow. It can exert a strong predation pressure and threaten freshwater mussel and crustacean populations. It could also act as a reservoir of different pathologies and causes damages to agriculture. Muskrat is included in the appendix to the recommendation no 77 of the Council of Europe as a species which has proved to be a threat to biological diversity and for which eradication is strongly recommended.
Data Source & References
Authors: Branquart Etienne, D'aes Margo, Manet Benoît, Motte Grégory, Schockert Vinciane, Stuyck Jan
Published on:  18 September 2007
Last update:  02 August 2011
Birnbaum, C. (2006)
Invasive Alien Species Fact Sheet Mustela vison, Ondatra zibethicus
From online database of the North European and Baltic network on invasive alien species (NOBANIS).
Connors, L.M. & Kiviat, E. (2000)
Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus). Disturbance to vegetation and potential net nitrogen mineralization and nitrification rates in a freshwater tidal Marsh
Am. Midl. Nat. 143: 53-63.
Godin J. (2005)
Les espèces animales invasives des milieux aquatiques et humides du bassin Artois-Picardie
Agence de l'Eau Artois-Picardie.
Libois, R. (2006)
Les mammifères non volants de la région wallonne : tendances des populations.
Dossier scientifique réalisé dans le cadre de l'élaboration du Rapport analytique 2006 sur l'Etat de l'Environnement wallon, Unité de Recherches zoogéographiques, Université de Liège, 127 pp.
Mazeika, V., Kontenyte, R. & Paulauskas, A. (2009)
New data on the helminths of the muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) in Lithuania.
Estonian Journal of Ecology 58(2): 103-111.
Michel, V., Branger, C. & Andre-Fontaine, G. (2002)
Epidemiology of leptospirosis
Rev Cubana Med Trop, 54 (1): 7-10.
Mitchell-Jones, A. J., Amori, G., Bogdanowicz, W., Kryštufek, B., Reijnders, P. J. H., Spitzenberger, F., Stubbe, M., Thissen, J. B. M., Vohralík, V. & Zima, J. (1999)
The Atlas of European Mammals.
Poyser, London.
Wittenberg, R. (2005)
An inventory of alien species and their threat to biodiversity and economy in Switzerland.
CABI Bioscience Switzerland Centre report to the Swiss Agency for Environment, Forests and Landscape. The environment in practice no. 0629: 155p.
Zahner-Meike, E. & Hanson, J.M. (2001)
Effect of muskrat predation on naiads.
In: Bauer, g; & Wächtler, K. (eds), Ecology and evolution of the freshwater mussels unionoida, pp. 163-184.

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