How to Trap A Muskrat? Best Bait and Muskrat Trapping Tips

How to Trap A Muskrat

To trap muskrats in deep water effectively, build an artificial feeding station where you can set foothold or Conibear traps. For baiting, nail an apple, carrot, or corn cob to the center of the raft. It’s important to check the traps daily to ensure effectiveness and humane practices.

Muskrats tend to stay to themselves and avoid human contact. But how can we avoid them if they are causing property damage, or creating a disturbance to our local ecosystem? This may be the case for you, and there are some key features about muskrats that you should know before attempting to trap one.

How to Trap A Muskrat (Step-by-Step Guide)

The best way to catch a muskrat is by trapping them with either a live or lethal cage. Muskrats are semi-aquatic animals, and spend the majority of their time in water, traveling back and forth between rivers and the land.

Use these tactics to successfully capture your pesky muskrat

Pick Your Trap

You have three different choices: a leg trap, body trap, or live cage.

  1. Leg trap: a circular device that closes shut on the animals’ foot when it passes over it.
  2. Body trap: a large flat trap that crushes the muskrat as soon as it’s in the center of the trap.
  3. Live trap: a self-closing cage with either one or two doors for easy access

* Both a leg and body traps are lethal *

Determine the Trap’s Placement

Here are two prime choices

  1. Set it along the travel path of the muskrat, on a bank or the perimeter of a waterway.
  2. Place it a couple of feet away from their burrow entrance (a hole with mud in front of it, or surrounding it.) This option is easier to set up.

Bait Your Trap

  1. Use crunchy or starchy vegetables and fruit. A few examples include:
    • Apples
    • Parsnip

Fully Set Your Trap

  1. First, place your trap at the beginning or end of the slide set, or trail, of the muskrat
  2. The cage should be parallel with the width of the trail
  3. Open the cage door
  4. Bait the trap with the muskrat’s favorite food. Use string to hold the bait on the cage (if the cage is submerged in water.)
  5. To trap a muskrat underwater, fully submerge the trap two-to-three inches under the water, near the entrance of their slide, to stealthily disguise the cage. Use a piece of string and a weight to hold the cage beneath the water
  6. Check periodically on the cage and animal. Muskrats can become anxious if trapped for too long, thus, making them more aggressive towards you when you approach them.

Muskrats spend a lot of time in the water, so there may be a chance that you’ll end up with an aquatic trap. There are many entrapments that are available specifically for water-based muskrat sets.

Best Bait for Trapping Muskrats

Occasionally during the winter, they will eat crayfish, snails, mussels, frogs, insects, and slow-moving fish; but muskrats are predominantly omnivores, and love to feast on plants and vegetation. Because of the strength and sharpness of their teeth, Muskrats favorite foods tend to be starchy foods or simple plants like:

  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Water Lilies
  • Sledges
  • Cattails
  • Clover
  • Switchgrass
  • Wild rice
  • Arrow head
  • Parsnip

The musk of another muskrat is also another option as bait. It’s not the best choice because it will attract the same problem that you’re trying to get rid of, but it’s still an option.

Even certain scents like oil of Anise is a great attractant for muskrats. The goal when baiting is to use the correct bait to lure the muskrat completely into the cage. So whatever you see or notice the muskrat eating, use that as your primary bait. If you’re not sure, this list of goods should do the trick.

Want more tips for best bait practices? No problem!

  • Create a small trail of bait that will lead to the inside of the cage.
  • Place a heavy object on top of the cage to keep it from being knocked over by the elements, or another animal.
  • Be sure that the bait is positioned well, and will not lodge between the door, or jam the trigger.

Muskrat Trapping Tips

Choose the Right Location

  • Place traps close to areas like muskrat trails, feeding grounds, dens, canals, and streams. Muskrats are most active near water sources and established trails. Focus your trapping efforts in these high-traffic areas.
  • Search for signs of muskrats, such as tracks, droppings, chewed plants, bank burrows, or their vegetation-made ‘houses’. These signs identify prime trapping spots.
  • Before setting traps, don’t disturb the area, as muskrats are sensitive to environmental changes.

Use the Proper Traps

  • For trapping muskrats, foothold traps, such as the #110 or #120 models, are most effective. These foothold traps keep the muskrat alive, which helps in preserving its pelt.
  • Conibear traps, while they instantly kill the muskrat, may also damage its fur. Use these traps for pest control rather than for harvesting pelts.
  • The size of the trap is important; it must be large enough to hold an adult muskrat, usually at least 4 1⁄2 inches wide.

Trap Setup

  • On land: Set traps on land at the openings of burrows or along muskrat trails for effective trapping. Use a dirt hole or natural cover to hide the trap.
  • In water: When setting traps in the water, anchor them to the bottom using a sliding lock mechanism and attach a float for visibility.

Use the Best Bait and Lure

To avoid leaving a human scent, always wear gloves when handling traps. Use wooden stakes instead of metal, as metal can deter muskrats.

Monitor Traps Daily

  • Inspect your traps every morning to prevent suffering in trapped animals and to avoid degradation of pelts.
  • Rebait when needed. Freshen bait every 2-3 days. Maintain trap scent.
  • If a trap hasn’t been sprung in several days, move it to a different location. Muskrats avoid sites with trapped kin.
  • As soon as you finish trapping, promptly remove the traps to prevent suffering in any animals that might get caught.

Signs of a Muskrat Problem

Watch for these common signs that muskrats have moved in:

Muskrats create cone-shaped burrow entrances with underwater tunnels in pond or lake banks and canal walls. Burrows may be hidden in cattails or other vegetation.

Muskrat “houses” – Muskrats construct free-standing ‘houses’ from aquatic vegetation, which can be up to 6 feet high. Houses are typically found in shallow water.

Look for chewing damage on trees and vegetation, caused by muskrats gnawing with their sharp incisor teeth. Keep an eye out for chewed saplings and vegetation near water.

Muskrats may leave behind wasted vegetation, often cutting down plants without eating them. Look for piles of untouched, cut cattails, bulrushes, or other aquatic plants.

Muskrat tracks, which resemble small handprints, and narrow trails near waterways are indicative of their presence. Trails are 2-6 inches wide on land near waterways.

Do Muskrats Bite?

Yes, biting is their number one form of defense. When an animal or human is too close to the muskrat, or makes it feel pressured and threatened, they are known to become physically assertive in order to defend their lives.

Fun Fact! Despite their smaller stature, they are well equipped and strategic enough to fight a dog, and win! There have been several cases of muskrat bites reported to Animal Control over the years.

You want to take real caution when attempting to handle a muskrat because muskrats are known to carry disease. They eat and drink directly from the earth; and the earth is filled with animal feces, urine, and animal hairs, which is how they obtain most of these diseases.

And yes, Rabies, is one of the diseases that muskrats carry.

These bacteria are usually spread via biological fluid like blood or saliva. Which is why it is imperative to take precautions when caging a muskrat. Be sure to wear heavy-duty gloves, and cover the trap with blanket once the animal is caught. It will keep them calm enough to not try and strike you.

Are Muskrats Aggressive?

Yes, muskrats are aggressive. As stated earlier, muskrats do what they must to refrain from contact with any predators, including humans. So when they are approached by one, they are known to become feisty, and will use their body as a weapon of defense.

Although one of their primary tools for fighting is escape, if that doesn’t work, muskrats will use their sharp claws that they use for burrowing, to dig and scratch at you. Their nails are pointy and slender, about an inch long, which is perfect to create a clean cut that will draw blood, if successful.

Most attacks are due to a predator trying to invade their burrows. They are very territorial animals.

Muskrats also become aggressive during their time of gestation. Because the mother is pregnant, she becomes irritable due to hormonal fluctuation. They are monogamous creatures, and the male will become very assertive if you try to harm its mate and babies.

Are Muskrats Afraid Of Humans?

Well, there are two sides to this coin. No, muskrats are not afraid of humans; however, we can scare them.

Heads: they are not afraid of humans. Muskrats spend their days eating, and building dams and burrows. At no point in time does a human cross their minds because we are not a daily part of their routine. So since we’re not their mind, they are not concerned about our well-being.

Tails: humans certainly do scare muskrats. The animals are natural-born eco-architects, and have no intentional means to cause harm. Although unintentional, their organic habit of eating vegetation, developing underground canals, and building dams causes a disruption in our human environment.

Because of the significant damage that they can cause to our crops, water lines, and property foundation, we humans tend to prey on these animals by killing them, or causing disturbance to their livelihood.

Did you know that there is a muskrat trapping season in Connecticut?

Imagine if there were a trapping season for humans? That would scare us, big time. Muskrats can become very defensive when it comes to humans, which is why it’s important to keep calm while approaching the caged muskrat. Limiting physical harm is the goal during capture and transfer.

Do Muskrats Attack Humans?

Yes, muskrats will attack a human, if they are provoked. Muskrats care about all of the work that they put into their burrows, canals, and dams, and will defend it at all cost. The most prominent reason for a muskrat attacking you is home invasion.

Excess heat can also be a determining factor of whether or not a muskrat will attack you. On very hot days, a muskrats’ body temperature can raise almost a little higher than a human, which is another reason as to why they love the water so much. But just like we get irritable, so will they.

With that being said, trapping your muskrat will definitely become a problem for them, and they will most likely attack you with a swipe of their claws, or a bite with their strong incisors. To protect yourself while trapping, wear heavy-duty gloves, and maybe even pants and a long-sleeve shirt to combat against scratches and bites, and prevent possible infection.

Can Muskrats Run Fast?

No, muskrats are not fast runners; however, they can run, and are quite agile.

This is good news! Now you know you won’t have to expend too much effort to catch it! Muskrats have very little feet with long nails attached to them. This feature is great for defense, and gripping the ground for cutting corners, but slows down the animal at the same time.

Another reason for their lack of running is due to their excessive swimming. Muskrats spend most of the day in marshes and other typical bodies of water. They are amazing swimmers, and their legs suffer from that because they don’t get used very often on land.

In addition, when a muskrat does have to run – from something trying to trap capture it – it simply scurries into the water and submerges itself as deep as it can go. Therefore, running on land is possible, but not the strongest feature for any muskrat

You Might Also Like:

Scroll to Top