Ondatra zibethicusMuskrats are the largest of the voles. Adult species may weigh up almost to 2 kg, though it is 1.5 kg on average. The tail is almost as long as the body. The auricle is barely visible, and the toes on the hind feet are connected by smallish webbing. The layer of guard hair comes on top of the very thick and soft undercoat. Muskrats are widespread along the water bodies and swamps of North America – from Alaska and Labrador to Texas, Arizona and California. The acclimatization of the muskrat in the Pskov Region started in 1948. It settled in well, spread and distributed into riverine, lacustrine and swamped parts, bays, bayous and other water bodies with rich marginal bush and herbaceous hydrophilous plants. The muskrat is semiaquatic, as it swims well both on and underwater. It is active in twilight and dark, as well as in the early morning. The day muskrats spend in their shelters. They build holes with a submerged entrance in the banks. Given the banks are low and swamped or it is an islet, they construct lodges – up to one meter tall – from stems of aquatic plants (reeds, sedges, cattails). The exit from such lodge opens straight into the water and is not visible from outside. The muskrat is one of the most important game species, yielding precious hides in abundance. Its meat is rather tasty, hence the gastronomically driven common name of water rabbit in many a state of North America. It forages mainly on aquatic and marginal vegetation, sometimes predating on smaller invertebrates.

Vegetation-wise, it feeds on sedges, cattails, reeds, bulrushes, horsetails, pondweeds, water-lilies, spatterdocks; whereas animal-wise the forage consists of mollusks, crawfish etc. Young species settle in the spring and autumn. In the region, 0.8 to 3.2 thousand hides a year are procured, and this number can be increased based on the muskrat population figures.

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