The muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) is a medium sized aquatic rodent that historically has been an important fur bearing mammal for the eastern United States. From late January through mid-March, 2010, both Wickham and Ausable marshes in Clinton County, New York were surveyed to assess muskrat distribution and abundance patterns. Using belt transects, Wickham marsh was surveyed entirely. As a result of unseasonably warm weather and ice instability, only a section of the Ausable marsh was surveyed and will be completed next winter. Vegetation at each GPS marked den site was noted, as well as den height and width. Following the ground survey, GPS locations of den sites were imported into an ArcMap project to facilitate occupancy comparisons between marshes. Results from this survey suggest that there is overlap in home range and territories of most muskrats on these marshes, and that the dens are often associated with emergent grasses and shrubs. The width of the muskrat dens was not significantly different (p = 0.21) between the marshes, in contrast to their height (p = 0.011). Results from this study suggest that differences in the management practices at the two marshes could influence the distribution of muskrats. This study provides information which can help assist wildlife managers and will add to the gap in literature for this ecosystem engineer.
Student poster, Center for Earth and Environmental Science, SUNY Plattsburgh