How To Get Rid Of Muskrats

How To Get Rid Of Muskrats

Muskrats – the pesky and destructive rodents that can wreak havoc on your property. These semi-aquatic creatures are commonly found near bodies of water, and if you have a pond or water feature on your property, you know first hand just how frustrating it can be to find a muskrat population taking up residence.

Fortunately, there are proven methods by which you can remove muskrats from your property – and protect your pond (while keeping the muskrats generally safe!) In this guide to getting rid of muskrats, we’ll take a look at why these rodents love to set up shop around your ponds and water features – and the steps you can take to evict them for good.

We’ll answer some of your top questions, such as: 

  • What attracts muskrats to ponds? 
  • How can I tell if I have a muskrat problem? 
  • What are the best ways to remove them from my property?
  • Is it inhumane or illegal to kill muskrats?
  • How can I prevent muskrats from returning in the future?

Let’s dive in and explore all of these questions – and more!

What Are Muskrats?

Before we delve into the methods of removing muskrats from your property, let’s look at what they are and why they may show up in and around your pond. 

Muskrats are medium-sized, semi-aquatic rodents native to North America. They have a compact body, short legs, and a vertically flattened, scaly tail that helps them navigate through water. Similar to beavers, muskrats are excellent swimmers and love to build homes around water (and even build dams!)

Muskrat Habitat and Behavior

Muskrats thrive in wetland habitats, such as marshes, swamps, and the banks of ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams. They are excellent swimmers and can remain underwater for up to 15 minutes. Muskrats create burrows in banks, with underwater entrances to provide quick escape routes from predators.

These rodents are primarily herbivores, feeding on aquatic vegetation like cattails, water lilies, and sedges. However, they may occasionally consume small animals such as snails, mussels, and fish.

Signs of Muskrat Presence in Your Pond

There are several telltale signs that indicate muskrats have made your pond their home:

  • Burrows: Look for muskrat burrows along the banks of your pond, often with underwater entrances.
  • Trails: Muskrats create well-worn trails through vegetation, leading from the water to their burrows or feeding areas.
  • Droppings: Muskrat droppings are small, dark, and pellet-shaped, often found near the water's edge or on logs and rocks.
  • Damaged Vegetation: Muskrats feed on aquatic plants, so look for signs of chewed or clipped vegetation in and around your pond.
  • Dams or Lodges: Muskrats sometimes build small dams or lodges using vegetation and mud, similar to beavers but on a smaller scale.

What Attracts Muskrats to Ponds?

Ponds and water features provide the perfect habitat for muskrats. Beyond just being full of their favorite thing – water – they also offer protection from predators and an abundant food supply.

  • Food: Abundant aquatic vegetation serves as a primary food source for muskrats.
  • Shelter: The banks surrounding ponds allow muskrats to create burrows for shelter and protection.
  • Water: As semi-aquatic animals, muskrats require constant access to water for swimming, feeding, and escaping predators.
  • Lack of Predators: Urban and suburban ponds often have fewer natural predators, such as coyotes and foxes, making them safer for muskrats.

Non-Lethal Muskrat Control Methods

So, you’ve found a family of muskrats living in your backyard pond, and you’re not sure what to do. While it may be tempting to try and remove them yourself, it’s important to remember that muskrats are protected species in some areas and should only be handled by trained professionals.

Instead of taking matters into your own hands, consider using non-lethal methods for muskrat control. These techniques will help manage the population without causing harm to the animals.

Installing Physical Barriers

One of the most effective ways to prevent muskrats from accessing your pond is by installing physical barriers:

  • Fencing: Erect a fence around your pond, at least 3 feet high and 1 foot deep, using sturdy materials like hardware cloth or welded wire mesh. Ensure the fence extends below ground to prevent muskrats from burrowing underneath.
  • Mesh or Netting: Cover the banks of your pond with heavy-duty mesh or netting to discourage muskrats from burrowing. Secure the mesh in place with stakes or heavy rocks.
  • Riprap: Place large rocks or stones (riprap) along the pond banks to create a barrier that muskrats cannot easily burrow through.

Using Repellents

Repellents can be used to deter muskrats from your pond by making the area less appealing to them:

  • Coyote or Fox Urine: Muskrats have a natural fear of predators like coyotes and foxes. Spraying coyote or fox urine around your pond can create an illusion of predator presence, discouraging muskrats from staying.
  • Castor Oil: Mix castor oil with water and spray it around your pond banks. The strong scent can deter muskrats from the area.
  • Cayenne Pepper: Sprinkle cayenne pepper or a mixture of cayenne pepper and water around your pond. The spiciness will irritate muskrats and discourage them from returning.

Modifying Pond Habitat

Make your pond less attractive to muskrats by modifying the habitat:

  • Reduce Vegetation: Trim or remove aquatic vegetation, particularly near the pond banks, to limit food sources and hiding spots for muskrats.
  • Maintain Bank Slopes: Keep pond banks steep and free of vegetation, making it harder for muskrats to create burrows.
  • Eliminate Hiding Spots: Remove debris, logs, and rocks around the pond that muskrats may use for shelter or hiding.

Live Trapping and Relocation

If muskrats are already present in your pond, live trapping and relocation can be an effective and humane removal method:

  • Choose the Right Trap: Use a live trap specifically designed for muskrats, such as a cage trap or a floating trap.
  • Bait the Trap: Use fresh vegetables, apples, or carrots as bait to lure muskrats into the trap.
  • Check Traps Regularly: Monitor the traps daily to ensure captured muskrats are not left for extended periods.
  • Relocate Muskrats: Once captured, relocate muskrats to a suitable habitat at least 5 miles away from your property, following local regulations.

Remember, always check your local laws and regulations before attempting to trap and relocate muskrats, as rules may vary by state or municipality.

Lethal Muskrat Control Methods

In some cases, non-lethal control methods may not be sufficient to manage a muskrat population in your pond. When muskrats pose a significant threat to your property, such as causing extensive damage to banks, dams, or other structures, lethal control methods may be necessary.

When Lethal Control May Be Necessary

Lethal control should be considered a last resort, after non-lethal methods have been exhausted or deemed ineffective. Situations where lethal control may be warranted include:

  • Severe property damage: If muskrats are causing significant damage to your pond, banks, or other structures, and repairs are costly or impractical.
  • Health and safety concerns: In rare cases, muskrats may carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans or other animals, such as tularemia or leptospirosis.
  • Overpopulation: If the muskrat population in your pond has grown out of control and is negatively impacting the ecosystem.
  • Regulations and Permits for Lethal Muskrat Removal
  • Before employing any lethal control methods, it is crucial to check your local and state regulations. In many areas, muskrats are considered a regulated species, and a permit may be required for lethal removal.

Rather than try to handle muskrats on your own, it’s best to bring in the aid of a professional wildlife control company. They have the knowledge and experience to safely and effectively remove muskrats from your pond while following all necessary regulations and permits.

Tips for Ongoing Muskrat Prevention

Just because you don’t have muskrats today doesn’t mean they won’t arrive tomorrow! It's important to take preventative measures to keep your pond free from these pesky critters.

Regular Pond Maintenance and Inspection

Regular pond maintenance is essential for deterring muskrats and identifying potential problems early. Keep the pond clean by removing debris, inspecting banks and structures for signs of damage, and monitoring water levels to ensure they remain consistent.

Protecting Vulnerable Areas

Reinforce areas of your pond prone to muskrat damage to discourage burrowing and erosion. Use riprap, concrete, or other durable materials to fortify pond banks, install mesh or netting barriers along the banks, and regularly inspect and maintain dams, spillways, and other structures.

Keeping the Pond Perimeter Clear and Tidy

Maintain a clear, open area around your pond to minimize hiding spots and make the habitat less inviting for muskrats. Trim vegetation, remove debris, and avoid planting vegetation that muskrats find appealing near the pond banks.

Ongoing Monitoring for Signs of Muskrat Activity

Monitor your pond regularly for signs of muskrat activity to address any issues promptly. Check for new burrows, look for muskrat tracks in mud or soft soil, and watch for signs of freshly chewed or clipped vegetation.

Keep Your Pond Muskrat-Free with Living Water Aeration

Dealing with muskrats in your pond can be a frustrating and time-consuming experience, but by implementing the right control methods and preventive measures, you can successfully remove these pesky rodents and keep them from returning. 

Remember to start with non-lethal methods, such as physical barriers, repellents, and habitat modification, before considering lethal control as a last resort.

Proper pond maintenance and aeration can also play a significant role in preventing muskrat infestations and promoting a healthier pond ecosystem. If you're looking for expert advice on how to keep your pond in top shape and deter muskrats, reach out to the team at Living Water Aeration. 

Our experienced professionals can help you select the right aeration system and provide guidance on maintaining a balanced, muskrat-free pond.


How do I know if I have a muskrat problem in my pond?

Signs of muskrat presence include burrows along the pond banks, well-worn trails through vegetation, droppings near the water's edge, and damaged or clipped aquatic plants.

Can I get rid of muskrats without harming them?

Yes, there are several non-lethal control methods, such as installing physical barriers, using repellents, modifying the pond habitat, and live trapping with relocation.

Is it legal to trap and remove muskrats from my property?

Regulations regarding muskrat trapping and removal vary by state and municipality. Always check with your local wildlife agency or animal control department for specific guidelines and permit requirements.

What is the most effective way to prevent muskrats from returning to my pond?

Implementing a combination of preventive measures, such as regular pond maintenance, protecting vulnerable areas, keeping the pond perimeter clear, and ongoing monitoring, can significantly reduce the likelihood of future muskrat infestations.

Can aeration help control muskrat populations in my pond?

While aeration does not directly control muskrats, it can contribute to a healthier pond ecosystem, which may make the habitat less appealing to muskrats. Aeration can also improve water quality and clarity, making it easier to spot signs of muskrat activity.

You can see our products
See Products
Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.