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How to Control Muskrats

By Kimberly Sharpe ; Updated September 21, 2017
Muskrats live up to four years.
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Muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) hold the distinction of being the largest rodents in North America. An adult male can measure over 30 inches in length and weigh up to 4 pounds. Muskrats require a habitat with year-round water and abundant food. The rodents can cause extensive damage to dams, shorelines, docks, and floating docks. Muskrats also pose a threat to commercial rice and cranberry fields. An abundant population of the rodents can decimate the aquatic life in regions that support waterfowl. Consider trying nonlethal methods first to control muskrats.

Lower the pond's water during the winter months by at least 2 to 3 feet. Fill in the muskrats dens, burrows and runs with rock.

Cover the dam in stone to make it less appealing to muskrats. Extend the stone 3 feet below the water's summertime surface level.

Fence in gardens or valuable landscape plants so the muskrat cannot leave the water and reach the plants to forage. Building a fence around the pond and dam will also help rid the area of muskrats.

Remove the vegetation around the pond and in the water. Consider planting crown vetch along the banks to discourage muskrats. Muskrats do not like crown vetch, according to the Wildlife Damage Control's website.

Place a muskrat colony trap above water in a muskrat run to catch the muskrats in the area. Locate the trap in the middle of the runway, close to the burrow's entrance. Check the trap daily and relocate any muskrats to a new location.

Stake a stovepipe trap to the bottom of the pond at least 1 foot below the water's surface. Locate the trap near the entrance to a den. The muskrat will swim in and drown in the trap. The trap can catch more than one muskrat at a time. Check the trap daily.

Shoot individual muskrats in the evening and early-morning hours. Check with local authorities to determine if shooting in the area is legal.

Check with local authorities to determine if it is legal to use the Restricted Use Pesticide zinc phosphide for muskrat control. In areas where the poison is legal, use a solution that offers a 63 percent concentrate of zinc phosphide. Sprinkle the zinc phosphide on diced apples or carrots. Place the bait on a floating platform near the burrow's entrance.


Things You Will Need

  • Rock
  • Fencing
  • Crown vetch
  • Colony trap
  • Stovepipe trap
  • Zinc phosphide, 63% solution
  • Apples or carrots


  • Some states allow the use of toxic anti-coagulant poisons, such as diphacinone, pivalyl, warfarin or chlorophacinone for muskrat control. Check with state authorities to determine if the substances are legal.
  • A highly valuable fur animal, muskrat pelts can be sold for a profit to fur buyers.


  • Muskrats often fight in a colony trap. They can afflict serious injury on each other and may even resort to cannibalism before relocation can take place.
  • Colony traps are not legal in all locations. Check with local government wildlife officials to determine if the trap can be used for muskrats.
  • Follow the directions on the zinc phosphide label. Use with caution. Keep the poison away from children and pets.
  • Use caution when using diphacinone, pivalyl, warfarin or chlorophacinone for muskrat control. Follow the directions on the poison's label. Keep the substance out of reach of children or pets.

About the Author


Based in Oregon, Kimberly Sharpe has been a writer since 2006. She writes for numerous online publications. Her writing has a strong focus on home improvement, gardening, parenting, pets and travel. She has traveled extensively to such places as India and Sri Lanka to widen and enhance her writing and knowledge base.