I mentioned the path along the Yvette before and the ducks and geese that live there. Gergö’s Austrian friend also told us about what he called “Wasserratten”. He didn’t know an English or French expression for them, neither did his French wife. Apparently the rats used to live right by the bridge, just down the road from us. Recently, the town has put up traps. When we went to the little bridge, they seemed to be gone.
But on one of our next trips to Auchan, the supermarket, we saw them a bit further down the path. They come out to feed as soon as someone shows up with bread for the ducks. And they swim among the ducks as well.
I remember a story by my mum about the time we grew up in Baden. The smelly river of Baden, the Schwechat, apparently had some muskrats that we liked to visit and watch. I don’t actually remember any of that, just that at some point the muskrat family “had moved away”. In reality, they were poisoned, because they were considered vermin, but my mum thought us too young to tell us that.
So I assumed the swimming rats were muskrats as well, and did some Wikipedia-ing. Turns out what he have here are river rats, also known as coypu or nutria. In German they are also called Nutria (which to me sounds like an artificial sweetener, to be honest) or Biberratte. They look very similar to muskrats, but don’t have a flattened tail, like muskrats do. The French word for them is Ragondin.
They are not native to Europe but were brought to Europe to be bred for their fur. Some escaped or were set free and voilà, ragondin population along small brooks in Île de France.