Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 62

fish, frogs and other muskrats. They
do not hibernate. During winter,
they subsist on roots and shoots
dug from marsh bottoms and on
twigs, buds and bark of willows,
cottonwoods, ash and box elders.
Muskrats breed from spring
to fall and have a high reproductive
potential. They give birth to large
litters (five to eight) and may
have two to four litters each year.
This high reproductive potential
can offset low survival. Muskrats
typically have annual mortality
rates of 80 to 90 percent. High
recruitment (addition of new
individuals) can quickly increase
muskrat numbers when multiple
litters are successful. When habitat
conditions are right, depressed muskrat populations can rebound in one reproductive season. Food and adequate
cover are critical to muskrat survival.
Analyses of regional muskrat harvest data suggest that significant harvest declines have occurred throughout
the eastern states and Canada, harvest declines have not been related to muskrat pelt price, and harvest declines
expanded northward during the late 1980s and early 1990s. In Pennsylvania, muskrat declines became significant
during the late 1980s.
Trappers as well as wildlife managers suspected widespread declines in muskrat abundance for decades.
Alleged reasons for the muskrat decline included diseases/parasites, contaminants, habitat conditions, predation
and overharvest. There currently is no evidence supporting disease/parasite outbreak, toxic substance exposure
or excessive harvest as causes of the muskrat decline. We believe poor habitat conditions and high predation are
major factors limiting muskrat populations in Pennsylvania and across eastern North America.
We recently collected age and sex data from 8,924 Pennsylvania muskrat pelts to help identify whether
reproduction and/or recruitment have changed over the past 20 to 30 years and whether these factors are
contributing to the widespread muskrat decline. We found that Pennsylvania muskrat populations were composed
of about 11 percent adults and 89 percent juveniles. There has been no significant change in the sex ratio over
the past 30 years. Recruitment appears to be occurring at normal rates. If reproductive and recruitment rates
were declining, we would expect to see a high percentage of adults in the sample and low juvenile numbers.
Reproduction and recruitment appear to be normal or slightly elevated. Mortality factors unrelated to reproduction
or recruitment are affecting muskrat populations. Poor habitat conditions and high predation are likely taking
their toll on muskrat populations.
Good muskrat habitat includes slow-moving water with high banks or shorelines containing soil or other
mediums from which roots and burrows can be dug. Stream habitat should be in a state of flux (changing
constantly) and periodically contain nutrients which support aquatic plants preferred by muskrats. Escape cover,
lodge-building material and preferred foods should be present. Agricultural crops such as corn enhance the
attractiveness of stream environments to muskrats.
Both mink and muskrats are currently valuable furbearers. During the 2013-14 season, mink prices averaged
$18.79 and muskrat pelts sold for $12.21, based on Pennsylvania Trappers Association fur sale results. Pelt prices
can increase trapper effort and elevate furbearer harvests. In the case of both mink and muskrats, we have not
seen any significant statewide population decline of these furbearers resulting from regulated harvest. Mink and
muskrat annual harvests are stable, based on annual harvest rate and trapper catch-per-unit-effort monitoring we
perform. In conclusion, mink populations are doing well and have no immediate threats; we'll continue to keep
a close eye on the status of the muskrat population.

62

Pennsylvania Game Commission



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015

Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - Intro
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - Cover1
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - Cover2
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 3
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 4
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 5
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 6
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 7
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 8
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 9
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 10
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 11
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 12
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 13
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 14
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 15
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 16
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 17
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 18
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 19
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 20
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 21
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 22
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 23
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 24
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 25
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 26
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 27
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 28
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 29
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 30
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 31
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 32
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 33
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 34
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 35
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 36
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 37
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 38
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 39
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 40
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 41
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 42
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 43
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 44
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 45
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 46
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 47
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 48
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 49
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 50
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 51
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 52
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 53
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 54
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 55
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 56
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 57
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 58
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 59
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 60
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 61
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 62
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 63
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 64
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 65
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 66
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 67
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 68
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 69
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 70
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 71
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 72
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 73
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 74
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 75
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 76
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 77
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 78
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 79
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 80
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 81
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 82
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 83
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 84
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 85
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - 86
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - Cover3
Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest 2014-2015 - Cover4
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