Muskrats: An Invasive Species to the Fall River
One of the factors leading to the degradation of the water quality in The Fall River and damage to grazing and rice fields is the presence of Muskrats. Muskrats are not native to Northern California. They were introduced in the early twentieth century by fur traders, some of whom started muskrat farms in the Fall River Valley for commercial benefit. When these ventures proved to be unmanageable and unsuccessful the farmers released hundreds of muskrats from their pens and the rest is history. It is believed that many thousands of muskrats live in the valley along stream beds, in ponds, and in or around rice fields. Muskrats live in dens in river banks and rice levies and bore holes through the levies and river banks to access their dens which causes severe erosion (and subsequent siltation) and damage to native vegetation
Fall River Conservancy and USDA Muskrat Management Actions
Among several key initiatives, The Fall River Conservancy has placed a high priority on the reduction of the muskrat population for the aforementioned reasons. Each year a female will give birth to at least a dozen kits, perhaps more, so keeping the population under control is not easy. Working with the USDA northern region, the Conservancy has provided funding to reduce the population through lethal humane harvesting methods. There are also at least two commercial fur trappers who work the Fall River Valley and Hat Creek. The estimate of kills from the USDA team is four hundred in 2013 and the trappers have reported approximately twenty-four hundred for 2013. Of course local ranchers and citizens account for an unknown number of Muskrat kills annually. Our best estimate of recent population reduction is from thirty-five hundred to four thousand harvested Muskrats annually.
Based solely on personal observation, those of us who are lucky enough to spend time on the river, as well as our USDA partners, believe the Muskrat population is being brought under control…but there’s a long way to go