Assessing translocation effects on the spatial ecology and survival of muskrats Ondatra zibethicus

Benjamin R. Matykiewicz, Steve K. Windels, Bryce T. Olson, Reid T. Plumb, Tiffany M. Wolf, Adam A. Ahlers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Muskrats Ondatra zibethicus are semiaquatic herbivores experiencing long-Term and widespread population declines across North America. Translocation may be a viable tool to bolster or reestablish local populations; however, subsequent effects of translocation on muskrats are unknown. We live-Trapped and translocated radiomarked muskrats (n = 65) during the summers of 2018-2019 in Voyageurs National Park, MN, USA and assessed post-Translocation effects on weekly survival probabilities and space-use patterns. We did not observe homing behavior, though individuals moved an average of 2.2 km (SE = 0.30 km) from release sites and established home ranges within ?8 days (SE = 1.16 days) post-Translocation. Weekly post-Translocation survival probabilities (0.95, SE = 0.001) and average home-range sizes (2.52 ha, SE = 0.44 ha) were similar to other studies of non-Translocated muskrats. Our most-supported known-fate survival model revealed muskrats using beaver Castor canadensis lodges had greater weekly survival probabilities. Additionally, weekly muskrat survival varied between years suggesting a positive response to a novel soft-release technique applied in 2019. Our study provides the first empirical assessment of translocation effects on muskrats and suggests translocation may be effective for establishing or enhancing local muskrat populations. Additionally, our study suggests beaver lodges may confer fitness benefits to sympatric muskrats particularly during dispersal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberwlb.00823
JournalWildlife Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 3 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements – We thank O. Aarrestad, J. Brickelbaw, S. Cooper, S. Cozier, J. Dutler, A. Gohl, K. Hauser, A. Hawkinson, S. Johnson-Bice, A. Keller, C. Kissane, E. Leicht, K. Olson, T. Pichler, J. Pruszenski, C. Ties and C. Wiley for their hard work in capturing, tracking and collecting data. Thanks to D. Haukos and D. Ricketts for their comments and suggestions which greatly improved earlier versions of this paper. Funding – We also thank the Initiative Foundation, the Minnesota Environment Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR; Project 152-D), Department of Horticulture and Natural Resources (Kansas State University), Voyageurs National Park and the United States National Park Service for funding this work. Permits/ethics statement – All capture and handling procedures were approved by the Kansas State University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC; Protocol no. 4098), and National Park Service IACUC (Protocol MWR_VOYA_Ahlers. Windels_Muskrat_2018.A2), and followed guidelines established by the American Society of Mammologists (Sikes et al. 2016). All activities were permitted by the National Park Service and, for areas outside of VNP, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (special permit no. 23895).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Nordic Council for Wildlife Research. All rights reserved.


  • Castor canadensis
  • Ondatra zibethicus
  • Voyageurs National Park
  • beaver
  • dispersal
  • home range
  • lodge
  • muskrat
  • survival


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