Muskrats are not dangerous to humans, but they can cause damage to backyard ponds.
There are safe and affordable ways to remove muskrats from backyard ponds. Repellents and traps are effective deterrents and preventative measures include limiting their food supply.
Live Trapping Muskrats (Step-by-Step Guide)
Live trapping is an effective and humane method for removing pesky muskrats from your property.
Choosing the Right Trap
The first step is to select the appropriate trap for live trapping muskrats. The two main options are:
Cage traps, box-shaped and made of metal mesh or wire, are ideal for muskrats. Choose cages at least 10″ x 12″ x 32″ to fit their size.
Leghold traps, which catch a muskrat by the leg when triggered, should be mid-sized and specific for muskrats. Choose ones with smooth, padded jaws to reduce injury.
Cage traps are the most humane and straightforward option for DIY muskrat trapping.
Picking a Strategic Location
You need to place the trap directly in the muskrat’s path to catch it. Scout for these key areas around your property:
- Near muskrat burrow holes or dens
- Along trails muskrats use to access water sources
- Close to damage or activity signs like chewed up plants
Position the trap so its opening faces the muskrat’s usual path to ensure effective capture.
Baiting the Trap
Bait the trap with muskrat-tempting foods to lure them inside. Good bait options include:
- Fresh vegetables – Carrots, sweet potatoes, corn, etc.
- Fruits – Apples, berries, melons, etc.
- Green leafy vegetation – Lettuce, spinach, kale, etc.
Place the bait behind the trap’s trip plate or trigger. You want the muskrat to step on the plate when going for the food.
Setting and Securing the Trap
After baiting, you’re ready to set the trap:
- For cage traps, lift the back door and latch it open using the provided clip, slide, or wire.
- For leghold traps, carefully set the trigger mechanism and lower the trap into position.
- Place the trap in the pre-scouted location, opening facing the approach path.
- Ensure the trap is stable and flush with the ground so it can’t easily be tipped.
- Secure the trap by staking it down with hooks, wire, or tent pegs so a trapped muskrat can’t drag it away.
Checking and Releasing the Muskrat
Check traps daily and approach cautiously in case you’ve successfully captured a muskrat. Open the trap carefully using long-handled hooks or tongs. Then:
- For the cage trap, lift open the back door.
- For the leghold trap, use the trapper’s gripper tool to pry open jaws.
Always wear thick protective gloves when releasing muskrats as they can bite defensively. Carefully transfer the unharmed muskrat to a plastic bin or carrier. Immediately relocate the muskrat at least 5 miles away in a safe, suitable habitat.
Natural Repellents for Driving Away Muskrats
Muskrats have an excellent sense of smell, so strong odors can effectively drive them away.
Castor oil, made from castor beans, has a potent, musky smell that muskrats dislike.
To use castor oil, apply it soaked in rags or cotton balls around ponds, gardens, flower beds, and other areas frequented by muskrats.
Reapply the castor oil scent every 2-3 days, especially after rain or irrigation.
The strong urine-like odor of ammonia is offensive to muskrats.
To use ammonia, soak old rags in it and place them in muskrat burrows or dens.
Also, sprinkle ammonia around the perimeter of gardens or yards.
The pungent odor of naphthalene in mothballs repels muskrats.
To use mothballs, stuff them into holes and tunnels. Also, scatter them around ornamental plants, flower beds, or shrubs for protection.
Certain materials have textures that muskrats find unpleasant to touch or step on.
- Applying strips of sticky bird repellent around muskrat-prone areas can deter them.
- The sticky substance is uncomfortable on the feet and fur of muskrats.
- Sharp metal chicken wire laid over soil deters digging.
- Muskrats dislike walking across the uneven, sharp surface of chicken wire.
- Crushed granite spread along ponds or burrows blocks access.
- The jagged edges of crushed granite make muskrats reluctant to cross these areas.
Other Techniques for Getting Rid of Muskrats
In some regions and during specific seasons, you can humanely kill muskrats using small caliber rifles or shotguns, but only with the proper permits.
Focus on removing only those muskrats causing damage, rather than shooting any muskrat indiscriminately.
Shooting muskrats requires skill and safe handling of firearms, making it not ideal for the average homeowner.
Placing poison baits such as zinc phosphide or chlorophacinone in muskrat burrows, trails, or feeding areas can be lethal to muskrats.
However, using poisons poses risks to pets, children, and other wildlife, often resulting in inhumane deaths.
Most experts advise against using poisons, although they are legal in some areas.
Hiring Professional Muskrat Removal Services
Removal and Exclusion
Reputable wildlife control companies have expertise in:
- Live trapping muskrats using humane methods
- Relocating trapped muskrats to appropriate habitats away from people
- Sealing up burrows and entry points to prevent re-entry
- Digging out dens and tunnels
- Installing one-way exclusion devices into burrows as needed
They have access to specialized equipment for safely excavating muskrat burrows. Professionals are also licensed to handle poisons or other regulated removal techniques where legal.
Many removal pros also offer proactive services to make your property muskrat-proof:
- Heavy-duty pond liner installation to deter burrowing
- Riprap, gravel, or wire mesh banks to prevent digging
- Custom muskrat-proof fencing around ponds or gardens
- Landscaping design consultation to reduce attractants
This can prevent recurring muskrat issues after the current infestation is handled.
What to Look for in a Service
Choose humane, conservation-minded companies like Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators (NWCOs) certified by the National Wildlife Control Operators Association.
Beware of unethical exterminators who use unsafe poisons, dynamite, or other inhumane removal practices.
Keeping Muskrats Away
Removing Potential Food Sources
Remove or protect these attractants:
- Clear away vegetation lining banks or shallow water access points.
- Use row cover fabric over crops to limit access.
- Harvest produce immediately when ready and remove fallen/rotting fruit/vegetables.
Without their favored foods, muskrats will steer clear of your property.
Fencing that blocks muskrat burrows and entryways is key:
- Pond fencing – Install wire mesh or riprap lining at least 3 feet below ground around pond banks.
- Perimeter fencing – Bury wire fencing at least 12 inches deep around gardens or yards.
- Den fencing – Place wire mesh over active burrow openings.
Check fences frequently for any breaches and repair them immediately. Quality fencing disrupts muskrats’ shelter and food sources.
The Importance of Removing Muskrats
Damage Caused by Muskrats
Muskrat burrows can cause flooding by weakening and collapsing pond banks, leading to water drainage issues.
Muskrats cause landscaping destruction by stripping bark and destroying ornamental plants, trees, shrubs, and gardens.
Muskrats can cause structural damage by digging dens near foundations, undermining stability and leading to potential collapse.
Muskrats contribute to crop loss by consuming and contaminating agricultural crops, particularly corn and soybean.
Extensive burrowing by muskrats can cause erosion, washing away soil and destabilizing embankments.
Potential Health Risks
Muskrats also pose health risks:
Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) – Spread through urine, droppings, and saliva which contaminates food or water. Flu-like symptoms in humans.
Tularemia – Bacterial disease transmitted by handling infected muskrats. Ulceration, fever, pneumonia.
Leptospirosis – Bacteria from urine can enter water and soil. Causes liver/kidney damage.
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Mike is the Founder of Familylifeshare. Mike is well-knowledged in marriage, parenting, dogs, blogging and committed to sharing his knowledge and expertise with his readers. Know more about Mike from here.