Damage and Damage Identification
Damage caused by muskrats is primarily due to their burrowing
activity. Burrowing may not be readily evident until serious damage
has occurred. One way to observe early burrowing in farm ponds or
reservoirs is to walk along the edge of the dam or shorelines when
the water is clear and look for “runs” or trails from just below
the normal water surface to as deep as 3 feet (91 cm). If no burrow
entrances are observed, look for droppings along the bank or on
logs or structures a muskrat can easily climb upon. If the pond can
be drawn down from 1 1/2 to 3 feet (46 to 91 cm) each winter,
muskrat burrows will be exposed, just as they would during extended
drought periods. Any burrows found in the dam should be filled,
tamped in, and covered with rock to avoid possible washout or, if
livestock are using the pond, to prevent injury to a foot or
Where damage is occurring to a crop, plant cutting is generally
evident. In aquaculture reservoirs generally maintained without
lush aquatic vegetation, muskrat runs and burrows or remains of
mussels, crayfish, or fish along with other muskrat signs (tracks
or droppings) are generally easy to observe.
There have probably been more traps sold for catching muskrats
than for catching any other furbearing species. A number of
innovative traps have been constructed for both live trapping and
killing muskrats, such as barrel, box, and stovepipe traps.
Muskrats are probably the easiest aquatic furbearer to trap. In
most cases where the run or burrow entrance is in 2 feet (61 cm) of
water or more, even a leghold trap requires only a forked stake to
make a drowning set. A trap set in the run, the house or den
entrance, or even under a feeding house, will usually catch a
muskrat in 1 or 2 nights.
The most effective sets are those placed in “runs” or trails
where the muskrat’s hind feet scour out a path into the bottom from
repeated trips into and out of the den. These runs or trails can be
seen in clear water, or can be felt underwater with hands or feet.
Which runs are being used and which are alternate entrances can
usually be discerned by the compaction of the bottom of the run.
Place the trap as close to the den entrance as possible without
restricting trap movement
Trapping muskrats during the winter furbearer season can be an
enjoyable past-time and even profitable where prices for pelts
range from $2.00 to $8.00 each. Price differences depend on whether
pelts are sold “in the round” or skinned and stretched. Many people
supplement their income by trapping, and muskrats are one of the
prime targets for most beginners learning to trap. Therefore,
unless muskrats are causing serious damage, they should be managed
like other wildlife species to provide a sustained annual yield.
Unfortunately, when fur prices for muskrats are down to less than
$2.00 each, interest in trapping for fur seems to decline. However,
in damage situations, it may be feasible to supplement fur prices
to keep populations in check.