The muskrat is so common in the reservoirs of Europe that it seems that this animal has always lived here. But, in fact, the muskrat appeared in the Old World not so long ago, in 1905 several pairs were brought from North America and released near Prague. The animal quickly acclimatized and began to multiply rapidly. In the Soviet Union, he appeared at the end of the twenties, after a few years the livestock increased so much that commercial hunting was allowed for the muskrat.
14 interesting facts about the muskrat
- Muskrat is widespread in North America, successfully acclimatized in Europe and Asia. But it does not occur in South America, Africa, Australia and Antarctica.
- Muskrat outwardly resembles a rat, hence its second name - musk rat. Moreover, the muskrat is much larger, the weight of adults often exceeds 1.5 kg. The blood of the muskrat has an increased content of hemoglobin, due to which it is able to spend most of its life in cold water. The fur is thick and dense, which makes it waterproof. Muskrat prefer fresh water reservoirs.
- In countries with warm climates, the muskrat is capable of producing offspring up to 4-5 times a year. In colder regions, this happens much less often, no more than 2 times a year. The gestation period lasts 30 days, most often from 6 to 8 babies are born, each of which weighs 20 g. For 2-3 weeks they feed on mother's milk.
- Male muskrats practically do not take part in raising young animals. A month after birth, muskrats begin an independent life.
- When swimming, the muskrat can reach speeds of up to five kilometers per hour. The animal is able to stay under water for a long time without oxygen. The officially recorded time is about 17 minutes. The muskrat has poorly developed sense of smell and sight, it relies more on its excellent hearing.
- The basis of the muskrat's nutrition is plant food - reeds, reeds, horsetails, cattails. Muskrat can also feed on agricultural crops, and, if necessary, on fish, frogs and molluscs. The animal is most active after sunset and in the early morning.
- But the muskrat itself often falls prey to predators. On land, they are often attacked by foxes, raccoons, wild boars, wolves, and predatory fish can attack in the water. For example, pike or catfish. For defense, the muskrat uses sharp claws and teeth.
- Due to the large number of enemies, the muskrat's lifespan is short. In the first year of life, about 80 percent of individuals die, and no more than two percent survive to the age of four. In the USA, doctors strongly recommend eating muskrat meat, gourmets claim that muskrat tastes like a rabbit. No wonder, in North America, the muskrat is often called the "water rabbit". In captivity, the animal often lives up to 10 years, moreover, it does not cause much trouble to the owners, it eats everything that is offered with pleasure.
- The muskrat builds huts or digs holes to live in the wild. The entrance to the housing is always located below the water level to protect against enemies. It is always warm inside the hut, even in the most severe frosts, the temperature does not drop below 0 degrees. In addition, muskrats build pantries for themselves, where food supplies for the long winter are collected. Muskrats rarely leave their habitats. Most often this happens when there is a shortage of feed.
- Zoologists have noticed an interesting fact, approximately once every ten years, the population size is sharply reduced, and this does not depend on human activity in any way. But, after a while, the livestock is restored again. Moreover, this happens only in the wild, this is not observed on fur farms.
- Muskrat can be called a sanitary officer of reservoirs, it cleans them of unnecessary thickets of reed mace and reeds, at the same time, does not pose a threat to fish. But, in some countries, for example, in the Netherlands and Belgium, the muskrat is considered a real pest that destroys the banks of canals and dams, as well as spoils the networks of fishermen.
- Muskrat hats were very popular in the Soviet Union. Such a headdress was a sign of prosperity, often worn by officials of the highest rank. Considering that the cost of fur hats was quite high, they were often stolen.
- Muskrat is hunted in great numbers by hunters. Unlike, for example, the beaver, the muskrat is not shy, but, on the contrary, is very curious. Therefore, there is no need to carefully camouflage the traps, the animal is not afraid of it, but tries to carefully "investigate" the strange object.
- Despite the fact that the muskrat was introduced to Europe only at the beginning of the last century, the animal's fur has been known here since the seventeenth century. In some States, hunting for muskrat was so intense that it caused a sharp decline in numbers. For example, in 1791, hunting for muskrat was prohibited in Massachusetts.