Distribution of invasive muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) and impact on ecosystem

Gintarė Skyrienė, Algimantas Paulauskas


The muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus L.) after being introduced to Europe quickly colonized new areas. They occupied Northern, Eastern and Central Europe. One of the reasons for their successful invasion into new areas was the release of animals in numerous places and their subsequent successful self-spreading from these places. However, this semi-aquatic rodent negatively impacts the ecosystem (causes damages of watercourse embankment through burrowing, consumes crops). The species possesses a high potential for both environmental and economic impact. Nowadays, following the successful widespread of this species, abundance of its population is reduced in some countries, e. g. Lithuania and Poland. The reasons for that can be ecological factors: availability of food, diseases, parasites and carnivore predators. Moreover, humans cause significant mortality of muskrats. The rodents are extensively trapped for fur, which is of increasing economic value around the world. The paper presents a review of the muskrat introduction history into Europe and whole Eurasia, distribution of the species, the factors important for population abundance increase and reduction, on genetics as well as muskrat invasion impact on non-native ecosystems for this species.


Ondatra zibethicus; acclimatization; predator; parasites; impact

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.6001/ekologija.v58i3.2532


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ISSN 0235-7224 (Print)
ISSN 2029-0586 (Online)