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Do Trends in Muskrat Harvest Indicate Widespread Population Declines?

Nathan M. Roberts and Shawn M. Crimmins
Northeastern Naturalist
Vol. 17, No. 2 (2010), pp. 229-238
Published by: Eagle Hill Institute
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40664877
Page Count: 10
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Do Trends in Muskrat Harvest Indicate Widespread Population Declines?
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Abstract

Ondatra zibethicus (Muskrat) is one of the most widely distributed furbearers in eastern North America. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Muskrats are experiencing a regional decline in numbers, although little empirical evidence exists to support this claim. Our objectives were to document temporal trends in Muskrat harvest in eastern North America, and to use the relationship between harvest and pelt price to infer potential trends in regional Muskrat populations. Muskrat harvest has declined by approximately 75% since 1986 in eastern North America, despite a recent resurgence in pelt prices. Recent harvest rates showed little correlation (r² = 0.355-0.559) with current or time-lagged pelt prices, despite large correlations (r² = 0.785-0.823) between pelt price and harvest from historic data (1948-1968). These results suggest that, at low harvest levels, there is only a weak correlation between harvest and pelt price. These results may be indicative of regional declines in Muskrat abundance, although future research is needed to substantiate this hypothesis.

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