Behavior

Coypus usually live together in pairs, although they frequently form large colonies of two to 13 animals usually consisting of related adult females, their offspring, and a large

A coypu (Myocastor coypus) mother checking on a youngster. (Photo by Animals Animals ©Robert Maier. Reproduced by permission.)

male. A young adult male may be occasionally solitary. Both the male and the female will generally remain in the same territorial area for their entire lives. A coypu can swim well due to webbed toes on the hind feet, and spends most of its time in the water. It is able to remain underwater for as many as

A coypu (Myocastor coypus) rests on feeding platform. (Photo by C. C. Lockwood. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)
A coypu (Myocastor coypus) in the Anuahac National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, USA. (Photo by Animals Animals ©Joyce & Frank Burek. Reproduced by permission.)

five to 10 minutes. On a regular basis, it carefully cleans and lubricates its fur with its fore feet, wiping the fat glands at the corners of its mouth. It then grooms and arranges the fur throughout its body.

The coypu often takes over the hole of other animals, usually muskrats. When it digs its own burrow, it prefers a location near water along a sloping bank that is usually at a 45-90% inclination. Self-built burrows can be simple tunnels 4-10 ft (1.2-3.0 m) long or complex systems that contain branching passages that extend 50 ft (15 m) or more and chambers that hold simple nests composed of various types of vegetation. The burrow's entrance is built above the water level. When unable to dig its burrow in the ground, the coypu carefully builds a simple surface nest of reeds, either on land or in shallow water. It builds winter resting platforms near dense vegetation that are 20-30 in (51-75 cm) wide and 6-9 in (15-23 cm) above the water level. It also makes runways through the grass in order to wander on numerous, curvy trails up to 590 ft (180 m) from its den. The average territorial range for a female is about 6 acres (2.5 ha), while for a male it is about 14 acres (5.7 ha); however, home ranges can vary anywhere from 6 to 445 acres (2.5-180 ha). The population density is usually 1.1-6.4 animals per acre (2.7-16.0 animals per ha), but can be smaller or much larger than these values.

The coypu is most active at night just before sunset and a few hours before dawn, where its main activities are feeding, grooming, and swimming; during the day it is commonly seen but is not so active. It is a very shy and fearful creature at the first sign of the smallest disturbance, which quickly sends it

A litter of young coypus (Myocastor coypus) resting on a log in Lake Martin, Louisiana, USA. (Photo by John Eastcott & YVA Momatuik/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

seeking shelter in the water, in its burrow, or in other hiding places. When in a safe environment, the coypu is gregarious and very social to other members of its community.

Predators of the coypu include wild cats, large birds of prey (such as bald eagles), red wolves, large snakes (like the anaconda and cottonmouth), alligators, and humans. Turtles, snakes, birds of prey, and other swamp animals may eat juvenile coypus. When confronted with an enemy, it will dive into the water, being more graceful in water than on land (where it is sometimes awkward and clumsy). If unable to quickly reach water when confronted with danger, it can run and jump fast for short periods of time.

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