DistributionThe muskrat was originally distributed in near-water biotopes in North America, almost everywhere - from Alaska and Labrador to Texas and northern Mexico. It was imported to Europe several times and eventually spread widely across Eurasia, right up to Mongolia, China and Korea.
In Russia, the muskrat range goes from the borders of Finland through the entire forest zone of the European part of Russia and a significant part of the forest-steppe and taiga zones of Siberia to the Far East and Kamchatka.
It is also found in Israel on the banks of freshwater rivers.
Human Meaning and Population StatusMuskrat is one of the most important fur trade species, it provides valuable durable skin. The meat is edible, in North America this animal is even called the “water rabbit”.
In a number of places, the burrowing activity of a muskrat harms the irrigation system, dams and dams. It damages agriculture, especially rice; having multiplied uncontrollably, it destroys aquatic and coastal vegetation. It is a natural carrier of at least 10 natural focal diseases, including tularemia and paratyphoid fever.
The muskrat is a numerous and widespread species, because it is prolific and easily adapts to changes in the habitat — the construction of irrigation canals, etc. However, its numbers are subject to natural cyclical fluctuations — it falls off for 6–10 years for unexplored reasons.
ReproductionPregnancy at the female lasts 25-30 days; in litter, an average of 7-8 cubs. In the northern regions there are 2 broods per year and reproduction is limited to the warm months & nbsp; - from March to August; in the southern breeding is almost not interrupted, and the female for a year can feed 4-5 broods. During the first weeks after birth, the male brings food to the nursing female, thus creating conditions for high survival of the cubs. The babies are blind at birth and weigh about 22 g. On day 10, they already know how to swim, and on the 21st they begin to eat vegetable food. By the 30th day, young muskrats become independent, but remain with their parents for the winter. In spring, young muskrats settle.
Muskrats reach sexual maturity at 7-12 months. The maximum lifespan & nbsp; - 3 years, in captivity & nbsp; - up to 10 years.