February 3, 2024 at 11:45 am
ZEIST / REGION In 2023, more muskrats and coypus were caught in the Netherlands by the 21 water boards than the year before. They pose a risk to our water safety by digging into dikes and nature.
The catches differ per region. More than 2,500 more muskrats were caught in 2023, an increase of five percent compared to 2022. The number of coypu catches in the Netherlands increased to 1,645 in 2023, an increase of 45 percent compared to 2022. The work of almost four hundred specialized muskrats – and coypu fighters from the water boards remain of great importance, according to the Union of Water Boards.
Muskrats and coypus
Muskrats and coypu do not naturally occur in the Netherlands, they ended up here due to human activity. Our animals also hardly have any natural enemies. The animals are controlled because they damage water barriers and banks by digging burrows and tunnels. They also make nesting bowls with extensive underground tunnel systems. They cause subsidence in dikes and quays. In the worst case, a dike or quay can break, causing villages or even cities to flood.
Director Jeroen Haan of the Union of Water Boards: “About 3,500 kilometers of dikes protect the Netherlands against flooding: from the sea, large rivers, lakes and ponds. Partly due to the changing climate, the pressure on our dikes (such as during the high water at the end of 2023) will become even greater in the future. Preventing burrowing by muskrats and coypus therefore remains an important task of the water boards.”
More muskrat catches in 2023 than in 2022
In 2023, a total of 51,043 muskrats were captured by the 21 water boards. That is an increase in catches of 2,596 animals, which is an increase of five percent compared to 2022. Regional differences have become greater. In areas with many muskrats, more muskrats have been caught again due to extra efforts by muskrat fighters.
To ultimately achieve a decline in the muskrat population in these areas, as many muskrats as possible must first be captured here. This results in an increase in catches. In other areas, the decline in muskrat catches continues. Along the national border, the water boards are trying to immediately eliminate the influx of muskrats. In this way, an attempt is being made to eventually rid the interior of muskrats.
Increase in coypu catches in 2023
With the coypu, we have already succeeded in pushing them back to the national border. The Netherlands no longer has its own population of coypu. More than 95 percent of the catches take place directly along the border with Germany. As a result of successive mild winters and less well-organized control, the coypu population in Germany is still large. The number of coypu catches along the border in the Netherlands has increased by 45 percent: 1,645 coypus were caught in 2023. Catching the coypu directly along the border prevents them from spreading across the country again.
Also a threat to biodiversity
Muskrats and coypus also pose a threat to biodiversity. The animals are therefore both on the European list of Invasive species. They eat away plants such as reeds and cattails, thereby displacing native animal species such as the black tern, the bittern and the reed warbler. These birds live in the reeds, where muskrats and coypus also have their habitat.