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Muskrat Study Report
For several decades, trappers in the Midwest and the northeastern United States have been aware that populations of muskrats have been declining and their distribution reduced. Similarly, wildlife managers have recorded declines in muskrat harvests. The overall declines in regional population trends for muskrats are alarming. As such, the Ohio Division of Wildlife, working in cooperation with the Wilds, launched an ambitious project to methodically examine potential factors that could be contributing to the muskrat decline. Our first step was to examine their health, and determine exposure to toxins and other chemicals. Accordingly, objectives of this study were to collect muskrat carcasses from across Ohio to determine health
in terms of (1) presence of disease, (2) accumulation of toxins, and (3) detrimental effects of contaminants. Sex and age structure, as well as reproductive output were also determined for the sample population. Trappers across Ohio donated legally trapped muskrats for this study. A total of 592 muskrats from the 2013-14 and 2014-15 trapping seasons from across the state were necropsied. Click to Read Complete Study
• The overall declines in regional population trends for muskrats are alarming. As such, the Ohio Division of Wildlife, working in cooperation with the Ohio State Trappers Association and the Wilds, launched an ambitious project to methodically examine potential factors that could be contributing to the muskrat decline.
• Objectives of this study were to collect muskrat carcasses from across Ohio to
determine health in terms of (1) presence of disease, (2) accumulation of toxins, and (3) detrimental effects of contaminants. Sex and age structure, as well as reproductive output were also determined for the sample population.
• Trappers across Ohio donated legally trapped muskrats for this study. A total of 592 muskrats from the 2013-14 and 2014-15 trapping seasons from across the state were necropsied.
• Based on molar indices, approximately 11% of the samples were adults. All adult
females had reproduced, having 1–3 litters/year with an average placental scar count of 15.0 ± 6.1 (range 3 – 32). Sex ratio was 1.1 males for every 1.0 female. These values are typical for muskrats at Ohio’s latitude.
• Few abnormalities of carcasses were noted during necropsy. White lesions noted on the livers of six muskrats were diagnosed as strobilocercus, which are bladder-like cystic structures formed by taenioid tapeworm larva. These likely had little effect on the population.
• Pesticides and personal care products appeared to play a minor role in muskrat
toxicology based on observed exposure.
• Nineteen of the 23 tested elements, however, occurred above threshold values.
• Forty muskrats of the 41 adults tested exhibited exposure above threshold limits for 1 to 18 metals.
• Less than 25% of the individuals (n = 9 of 41) were exposed to aluminum, arsenic,
boron, chromium, cobalt, copper, cadmium, lead, nickel, selenium, silver, vanadium, or zinc.
• Three muskrats from widely separated areas, Ashland, Fayette, and Guernsey counties, exhibited exposure to 18, 17, and 18, of the 23 metals for which we tested, respectively.
• The exposure to 6 metals was more widespread and consequently has the potential to cause detrimental effects on a large scale. These were antimony (n = 19 muskrats), calcium (n = 19), iron (n = 21), mercury (n = 21), molybdenum (n = 19), and strontium (n = 22).
• Muskrats in areas across Ohio suffered from moderate to severe levels of metal
contamination. Such contamination can have negative effects on health, survival, and
reproduction. However, the pathogenic effects of contaminants cannot be known without additional testing. Histological tests on major organ tissues are needed to determine if and to what extent contamination with metals is impacting muskrat populations in Ohio.
• Nonetheless, knowledge concerning the level of exposure to toxic metals in Ohio’s
muskrats represents a significant beginning in our effort to determine factors contributing to muskrat decline.
Est. 1940 - The nation's third oldest trapper association
Nominations are being accepted for OSTA Hall of Fame and Lifetime Achievement awards.
Induction into the OSTA Hall of Fame is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon those who have given of themselves to help preserve the heritage of trapping - a memorial for all time.
The Lifetime Achievement award is given to a person who has devoted themselves to protecting trapping in many ways for a number of years.
If you know of someone who meets this criteria, download the attached form and submit to an awards committee member.
NEWS FROM FUR HARVESTERS
The pickup routes are on hold until further notice.
The March sale is going to be held as online only. New routes will sent out with your check from the March sale, if you have one and the time is appropriate. Otherwise watch the FHA website for an announcement; I’m sure it will be distributed on social media also.
Any fur picked up on the next route will not make the May sale, another sale is being set up for September, that is the soonest your fur will be offered.
Now a note from me. First if you are in Ohio and are going to hold your fur past 6/15 you need to notify your local wildlife officer, if you are in another state check your state laws. If you are going to hold fur it is best to bag them, squeeze the air out, bag again, wrap tight and freeze. Heat and air is the enemy. Air exchange will cause the fat in the skins to oxidize (greaseburn) and the warmer it is the faster that will occur. Heat also creates the issue of bugs and damage from such, by freezing or placing in a walk in cooler you avoid the bug issue.
If you do not have access to a freezer or cooler, follow the same protocol for bagging, bug add some moth balls to each package, and also dust them with Sevin. On your fur out skins make sure and get some dust down inside the skin. The fur bugs eat the fat and meat; moths eat the hair/fur.
Get this done now, fur bugs and moths are already showing up with the weather warming, remember squeeze rather air out and wrap, stretch wrap does a nice job, vacuum bags are great if you can find some big enough. Create as tight of an air and bug barrier as you can, no matter how you plan to store, use the moth balls and Sevin if you can not keep cold.
Routes will be rescheduled and posted once the situation is under control.
OSTA Lifetime Achievement Award