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How Do I Get Rid of Muskrats? – Pond & Lake Q & A


Picture of a Muskrat

Q: How do I get rid of muskrats? They keep creating tunnels in the sides of our pond.
- Several Customers

A: Muskrats can be a huge annoyance when it comes to having a farm pond. A muskrat can lower the water level by building a tunnel from the side of the pond to a nearby ditch or by opening up veins underneath a clay base. Also, attached to this tunnel is a den for the family of muskrats which can cause unstable ground in those areas. So how do you get rid of these things? Well, there are a couple of different techniques.

1) Disrupt Their Diet: A muskrat eats aquatic vegetation like cattails, sedges, rushes, water lilies and pond weeds. In some areas it may also eat clams, mussels, snails, crayfish, small fish and frogs. Keeping your pond clear of excess vegetation such as cattails, grasses, rushes, etc will disrupt a muskrat’s diet. The best way to rid your pond of these emergent plants is to use Shoreline Defense® & Treatment Booster™ PLUS. Simply mix the two products together in a pond sprayer and spray directly on the target plants. Allow 1-2 weeks for complete control. When the plants are dead (they will turn brown) remove them with the Pond Rake & Cutter. Dead vegetation makes a great nesting area, so be sure to remove it!

2) Disrupt Their Environment: Muskrats prefer ponds with four to six feet of still or slow-moving water. Although adding depth to pond may not be a simple option, but adding an Aeration System is. An Aeration System will not only provide the circulation needed to deter muskrats but will help to disrupt their diet by reducing weed growth as well.

Muskrat Facts: The muskrat is a very good swimmer. Muskrats can stay underwater for as long as 15 minutes. In the southern states they may breed year-round. In the northern states the mating season runs from March through August. Muskrats have up to five litters a year, giving birth to up to nine young each time! The average lifespan of a muskrat in the wild is three or four years.

56 Responses

  1. Do those solar powered gadgets that you can buy out of catalogs that move Moles from your yards work?

    They are cheap enough you can get three or four and place them along the shore and if they work you should get all of your muskrats to move to the rescue ladies yard.

    • We do not sell the mole repellers so I cannot speak to how they work with muskrats and other rodents. If any of our reader base has used these, please comment on they worked for you!

  2. how do you trap the muskrat when you dont know exactly where the den is? i only see the critter on rare occasions, there is no pattern as to when i see him. i also have mallard ducks in my pond. if i set traps, will the ducks get in the traps.

    • Bait the traps with fish, apples, etc. Make sure you use a live trap, place it partially above water and check them regularly so you do not accidentally kill an unintended target. I’ve yet to see a duck get caught in a muskrat live trap, but there is a first time for everything.

  3. I have used a .22 mag for years and they keep coming back, my new idea is, I am going to line the shore with 6″ broken concrete, you can get it free and I don’t think they will dig through it.. we will see

  4. Love all the stories. I live on a lake with 160 feet of frontage. It is now the happy home of who knows how many muskrats. In early spring I saw one swimming away with long water iris (Siberian Iris) leaves, next it was the buds. They pretty much decimated 5 large clumps of iris. I went away for a weekend. When I came back my 6 pepper plants in the garden near the lakefront were completely gone. A Jalapeno plant with peppers as well. All of one and half of another of my tomato plants was cut at ground level. They couldn’t haul that away because of the tomato cages. Next they attacked the day lilies that also line the water’s edge, what they didn’t haul away they flattened to the ground. I don’t have a gun larger than a pellet gun, but it sounds like I need to find someone with a 20 gage shotgun. How does the DNR feel about that. Is there a muskrat “season”. Should be every day!

    • Luana, check with your DNR. The rules differ from state to state. Indiana, for example, gives you the option to trap and relocate muskrats within the county of capture or trap/shoot any that are causing damage to your property.

  5. I also have problems with muskrats in my pond and I am debating on setting a trap for them but I have ducks and I am afraid of them getting into the trap and being killed. How far under the water should I put the trap and would it be wiser to get a live trap for them? I noticed in an earlier blog that they love apples. Is this true?

    • Hey Tammy, I just replied to a very similar question a little higher up in the comments that will help you out. Yes, they do like apples which seems kind of strange. We always suggest live traps as it reduces the risk of killing something you didn’t intend to. Always keep the trap at least partially above water so that if something gets in there it does not drown. I say this not only for unintended targets but for muskrats as well. Most wildlife departments (be sure to check with your own local department) condone the trapping and shooting (with a .22 or small caliber rim-fire weapon) as it is considered more humane than drowning. Rules are different everywhere so do your homework before you trap.

  6. My back yard is collapsing due to muscrat tunnels on the edge of our lake. How can I permanently get rid of them before someone break a leg?
    Dorothy on July 8, 2012 at 5:30P.M.

    • Hi Dorothy,

      Trapping the critters with a live trap or similar is really the only solution.

    • I had a really BAD muskrat problem living alongside a wild pond — Nothing worked but this…Go to Home Depot and buy Mole repelent solar power stakes that vibrate every 10 seconds or so – buy as many as you can afford because it DOES work. Good luck.
      PJ

  7. So if the windmill I bought quit working over the winter and I am waiting for the parts to get to you so it can be repaired , NOW I have Muskrats and they are tunneling so if and when the pump starts again will they leave ???

    • Muskrats don’t like the water movement created by fountains, pumps and aeration systems but it may not be enough to send them packing. Cattails or other tall emergent weeds around the pond appeal to muskrats and may encourage them to stay. You can try to remove their preferred habitat to get them to move on but, in some cases, you may have to trap them to remove them.

      • We set traps and got nothing drove a tractor out by the pond and collapesed tunnels and I am sure the den beings the tractor went down a good foot or better . The windmill is working and the everyother day cutting of the grass makes it more busy out there and I watch during the day in good and bad haven’t seen one on the bank or foot prints in the mud . And like I say all gods critters deserve a place on this earth and I haven’t tried Muskrat Yet but I hear next to corn and potatos is a good place to start in a stew.

  8. Aeration doesn’t deter them. My dugout is 17 ft deep when full and is aerated as I have R’bow trout that I keep year round and have a large system pumping air 24/7 365 days a year. I live in the country so I also use the 12 ga approach to my problem. I shot 14 last year. Seems u can control but not get rid of them. I’ll get rid of 2 or 3, not see any for a week them suddenly there’s 1 or 2 more. They seem to have a radar that leads them to water. I’ve caught them 300 yards away heading for the water coming from who knows where. I try to harvest some of the bigger trout spring and fall by net. When u get a rat in a fish net they keep swimming until they have the net twisted into a ball and they are dead (drowned) in the middle pretty much destroying a $100.00 net. I’ve also srayed out the cat tails more to keep the water exposed to the wind to contol the duckweed that grows on sheltered water. Like i said shot 14 last year

  9. any suggestions to keep mink out of a koi pond? they are great swimmers and love to eat fish. I cannot shoot them as I have a pond-liner. thanks!!

  10. I live on a small lake and I’ve noticed alot more muskrat activity at my beach. I’ve found tunneling on my beach and thought it was from moles. Since then I ve had problems with a muskrat or two coming on shore and deficating on my rocks and waterline. I clean the rocks off daily and the muskrat comes back several times during the night and deficates on the rock that seperates my property line from next door. I’ve used critter ridder and mole ridder, etc on the rocks and the muskrat deficates right on top of it. The amount of poop on the beach waterline and the rocks continues to grow quickly. How can I get rid of this thing? Any Ideas? Thanks for your feedback.

    • Muskrats can be a huge annoyance when it comes to having a farm pond. A muskrat can lower the water level by building a tunnel from the side of the pond to a nearby ditch or by opening up veins underneath a clay base. Also, attached to this tunnel is a den for the family of muskrats which can cause unstable ground in those areas. So how do you get rid of these things? Well, there are a couple of different techniques.

      1) Disrupt Their Diet: A muskrat eats aquatic vegetation like cattails, sedges, rushes, water lilies and pond weeds. In some areas it may also eat clams, mussels, snails, crayfish, small fish and frogs. Keeping your pond clear of excess vegetation such as cattails, grasses, rushes, etc will disrupt a muskrat’s diet. The best way to rid your pond of these emergent plants is to use Avocet & Cide Kick. Simply mix the two products together in a pond sprayer and spray directly on the target plants. Allow 1-2 weeks for complete control. When the plants are dead (they will turn brown) remove them with the Weed Rake & Cutter.
      Dead vegetation makes a great nesting area, so be sure to remove it!

      2) Disrupt Their Environment: Muskrats prefer ponds with four to six feet of still or slow-moving water. Although adding depth to pond may not be a simple option, adding an Aeration System is. An Aeration System will not only provide the circulation needed to deter muskrats but will help to disrupt their diet by reducing weed growth as well.

      If your resident muskrats are not to keen on picking up subtle hints, then it’s time to get physical. Purchase a Muskrat Trap or two, place them near their tunnels with some bait (apples work well) and wait for them to investigate. Once you have them under lock and key it is time to take them for a long trip to relocate them to a distant pond or lake.

      Muskrat Facts: The muskrat is a very good swimmer. Muskrats can stay underwater for as long as 15 minutes. In the southern states they may breed year-round. In the northern states the mating season runs from March through August. Muskrats have up to five litters a year, giving birth to up to nine young each time! The average lifespan of a muskrat in the wild is three or four years.

      -Missy

  11. I do like all animals. Until this season we enjoyed watching a muskrat or two swim by on the lake. We have a small frog pond. We love that too. Had lots of green frogs last year. This year we have seen a muskrat near the pond and the population of frogs is way down. We would now like to trap and relocate the muskrat(s). Thanks for tips, ya’ll! Love the shot gun story. Whew!

  12. We recently moved into our new lake house, we worked very hard to build (GC). Financially, emotionally & physically…exhausted! Now the Tax bill has arrived, I wondered are we being penalized for building a nice house in the neighborhood? (no, not mcmansion & we even gave special consideration to how the house will fit / blend into the neighborhood) Now muskrats are taking a shot at us! At first I felt as Laurie (post); asked my husband “have you lost your mind” (just mention of traps/chipmunks). Yes, I, too, enjoyed the antics, ‘ahh’ the cute chipmunk, ‘ahh’ the swans, quickly turned into ‘eww’ the geese droppings & ‘ewww’ musk-RATS! (a water rat). The beautiful Swan & Duck eggs died, tho of course the geese population increased! I open the window to let a bug out, don’t kill spiders, etc however, there is a limit (disease). Laurie, you must not have a garden or children. How do you feel about the geese feces? Though this has helped me to realize, no, we’re not “nuts”. It doesn’t necessarily mean one is “against” the enviornment bcause one wants to preserve their own little corner .. (enviornment) Can we bring the chipmunks or muskrats we catch (trap) to your house or wildlife rehab please? I have to consider the well being of the children as I now worry may fall on unstable ground the muskrats create, and/or the feces they may pick up, etc.etc. I want to live in harmony, disease free!

    • By now you have probably fixed your problem with the geese feces but just in case, have a solution I have seen work twice. Geese generally are afraid of alligators and crocs. There are fake alligators which float and they generally drive off the geese. Manage a property with pond behind it. Every morning, the geese would climb out of the pond, head across the backyard and patio and fly up to land in the neighborhood swimming pool-YUCK. Told my tenants about a previous experience with a caterer in Columbus SC where the geese were soiling their lake with sculpture-drove by one morning-nary a goose in sight. They had bought a floating alligator (hard plastic) and it worked. My tenants in Myrtle Beach did the same thing and no more goose poop all over everything. HOA decided to buy them for all their ponds and some golf courses here use them. Hope this helps.

  13. I never knew that. I guess if you had several muskrats it would add to the problem. Will setting traps be just as effective?

    • While setting traps may be effective for the muskrat that is currently visiting keep in mind future prevention to discourage them will be more enjoyable in the long run rather than always having traps out for the next one.

  14. Most of you people are absolutely nuts. Why is it that humans are so selfish & greedy that they think this earth is all theirs instead of living in harmony with nature. I have a beautiful pond in front of my house with many creatures residing including muskrats & I enjoy watching their antics in the evening & early morning. And I also work at a wildlife rehab center for the last 10 years. Why don’t you try being for the environment instead of against it

    • you can have all the muskrats in my pond

    • You can have the muskrats destroying the whole pininsula jutting out into the river by my house also!

    • Any suggestions on how to keep them from eating the wiring on my pontoon boat? That is one “antic” that I do not find enjoyable.

      • You can try protecting shielded wires with braided steel sleeves. If they want to bad enough though, they will eventually chew their way through those as well.

      • I put wire mesh over their access point to keep them from destroying my pontoon boat.

    • I spent thousands of dollars to build and landscape my pond. I then injured my knee from falling through one of their tunnels, and then spent thousands more to fill and landscape it again because of their damage. And you think I’m nuts for wanting to get rid of them – oh sorry I guess you said absolutely nuts!

      I used to have a whacko lady like you for a neighbor who found a nest of mice in her cabin and thought they were so cute she started feeding them. After they chewed up the electrical wiring inside her walls and it had to be removed and replaced – insurance company got screwed to the tune of thousands of dollars on that one – she still refused to trap them.

  15. Ok so we put in a fountain ( to circulate the air) and they loved it! You would have thought they were at a water park or some dang thing. I will go back to the 22 I guess unless someone has a better idea.

    • Watch out for .22 s, they can deflect off the water and hit unintended targets. A buddy of mine hit his house and went through the wall. I switched to a 20 gauge.

      • I agree, a shotgun is the way to go. anything else will ricochey off the water to who knows where. I have verry good luck with my 410pump

  16. I actually collapsed and filled the muskrat tunnels with gravel. As for my pond liner I had to repair the holes where they had tore through it with pond liner and the two sided pond tape. I have tried the black sealant for ponds with the pond liner and it hasn’t worked so good for me. Stick with the two sided tape for repairs.

  17. do you have suggestions on how the holes and tunnels that have been created by these muskrats can be filled or blocked? i am looking at a huge expense to re-line the entire downstream size of my pond but i think i only have 5 or 6 tunnels that need to be filled. Also, are the tunnels mostly near the surface of the pond?

    • Hi Dave,

      Unfortunetly I’m not sure of any quick and easy fixes. You would need to push back down the dirt that has been raised to make the tunnel first. Then you may need to bring in so additional dirt in order to even out any ruts that may be left. You should be able to see the majority of the tunnels at ground level around the pond. Generally the tunnels would not be dug deep into the pond however I still have a lot to learn about muskrats. Let’s ask our other viewers if they may have any other suggestions for you.

      • Muskrats can tunnel for a long way underground. currently I have one den I just found and it’s about six to seven feet from the water. If you can leave the den there for a while and set conibear traps in front of the openings. That way you know where they are. I have one from last year that still produces dead muskrats. They keep coming back. I take a driveway marker and poke the ground until you find the back of the den and mark it so no one steps on it. Remember there are almost always two openings for a den.

  18. I have a musksrat on the side of a lake where I just brought property. He is distroying my propeerty. How do I get rid of him?

    • Mary,

      Muskrats in a pond can be very damaging. They can potentially have 4 litters per year with 6-7 young per litter. The burrow into the sides of the pond and create tunnels and dens. There are a couple of suggestions that I can give you.

      Disrupting their diet of aquatic vegetation like cattails, sedges, rushes, water lilies and pond weeds, will help to eliminate a food source for them. This would involve cutting down grasses and cattails and eliminating weeds in the pond.

      Muskrats also prefer calm or slow moving water and deeper water. You can increase the movement in the water by adding an aeration system, however increasing the depth would be a little more challenging or trapping them using Muskrat Traps placing them in the runs that are active.

      There is also another Pond Guy Blog Question & Answer that discusses Muskrats.

  19. I found that we had a muskrat problem when our I noticed 7 to 8 tunnels on the edge of our pond. I found that my .22 works perfect to resolve the problem.

    • AMEN !!! Thank God for the 22mag. over the last several days I have eliminated almost 20 of them and still see more. I am worried about rolling the tractor into the pond while mowing. These are ” VERY DESTRUCTIVE ” critters ….

  20. I take a little harsher approach. I set on the bank as the sun is going down to dusk, for it seems this is the time of day they like to come out, with a 12 gauge shotgun and as they swim by KA BOOM. And don’t think your done with one, wait a little bit and alot of times another will come by to see what all the rukus is about and KA BOOM you got two. Works for me.

    • John F I like your approach, but my HOA wouldn’t like it. Tomorrow I go to Bass Pro Shops for a bow and arrows ….

  21. [...] on ridding your pond of muskrats and a couple extra cool facts read back to our previous Blog on the [...]

  22. We have muskrats too in our pond. They have slowly been burrowing holes all around it. It is so bad that if you are not careful you could get your foot caught due to cave ins. We have tried trapping them, and were successful one year, but they keep coming back. Someone needs to come up with a better idea to get rid of them. I’m wondering if there is anything they hate the smell of or taste of that I could put around the perimeter of my pond.

  23. I can tell you that so far in the last week I have caught 5 Muskrats, They have tunneled out of my pond liner up on the bank. We have been trapping them in our backyard near our pond. They keep digging under our wooden fence. So slowly we have been concreting under the inside and outside of the fence to make it harder for them.

    • Hi Michelle, I to have a problem with muskrats. What kind of trap did you use and what bait??

      Thanks
      John,
      North Carolina

      • John,
        I bought a raccoon trap at Home Depot. I baited it with sliced apples. They love apples. Last year I caught over 9 Muskrats. They dug under my wooden fence to get to my pond. Good luck. If you need anything else let me know.
        Michelle

    • Michelle, can you tell the brand and serial number of the trap you bought? Thank you, Bob

      • Bob,
        I went to Home Depot and just bought the trap that says it is for a raccoon. It was plenty big enough, I wouldn’t go any smaller.
        Michelle

  24. We have muskrat problems in out pond wall. Are there electronic tools that will show where those muskrat tunnels go. Seems like I plug a water leak from one tunnel and a week later there is another leak from another tunnel a couple feet over from the first. Be nice to get rid of all the tunnels at one time.

    Any thoughts. Thanks. The pond wall holds back 15 feet of water from flooding a corn field.

    • Joe Foster,

      Muskrats can be a problem no doubt. Off hand I don’t know of any electronic device that would help you locate where the tunnels of the muskrats go. Another thing you can do besides the above post is to annoy the heck out of them by locating their tunnel and collapsing them starting from the pond’s edge and moving inland. By continuously collapsing their tunnels, they will get annoyed and move on. Another thing you can do is pick up a muskrat trap to catch them and get them out of there. Hopefully this helps!

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