Weaver’s Wildlife Control often receives calls from customers experiencing damage to ornamental ponds, ornamental plants and swimming pools due to muskrat activity. We also receive calls from local farmers complaining of severe crop damage. The muskrat is the largest microtine rodent in the United States. It spends its life in aquatic habitats and is well adapted for swimming. Its large hind feet are partially webbed, stiff hairs align the toes, and its laterally flattened tail is almost as long as its body. The muskrat has a stocky appearance, with small eyes and very short, rounded ears. Its front feet, which are much more smaller than its hind feet, are adapted primarily for digging and feeding. The length of an adult muskrat is usually between 18-24 inches. Large males will sometimes be more than 30 inches long, 10-12 of which is the laterally flattened tail. The average weight of adult muskrats is 1 1/2 pounds to over 4 pounds, with most at about 2 1/2 pounds. The color of the belly fur is generally light gray to silver to tan, and the remaining fur varies from dark tan to reddish brown, dark brown, and black.
The name muskrat, common throughout the animal’s range, derives from the paired perineal musk glands found beneath the skin at the ventral base of the tail in both sexes. These musk glands are used during breeding season. Musk is secreted on logs or other defecation areas, around homes, bank dens, and trails on the bank to mark the area. The muskrat has an upper and lower pair of large, unrooted incisor teeth that are continually sharpened against each other and are well designed for gnawing and cutting vegetation. The muskrat uses its tail as a rudder and its partially webbed feet to propel itself in the water. It can swim slightly faster than 3 miles per hour. When feeding, the muskrat swims backward to move to more choice spots and can stay under water for as long as 20 minutes. Muskrats are primarily nocturnal, but occasional activity may be seen during the day. Muskrats in the wild have been known to live as long as 4 years. Mating season is usually from spring through summer. Female muskrats commonly produce 5-6 litters per year. Muskrats are found in most aquatic habitats throughout the United States. They can live almost anyplace where food and water are available year-round. This includes ponds, lakes, marshes, roadside ditches, and other wetland areas. Burrowing activity is the source of the greatest damage caused by muskrats. Muskrats often cause damage to farm ponds, ornamental ponds, swimming pools, levees, dikes, irrigation canals and crops. Dens can be found in creek and pond banks. Dens are constructed underground often with the entrance below the waterline. Muskrats also build huts similar to beaver huts but smaller in size, typically in marsh areas where dirt banks are not available for digging. They damage pond dams, floating Styrofoam marinas, docks, boathouses, and lake shorelines. Muskrats are primarily herbivores. They will eat almost any aquatic vegetation as well as field crops. Muskrats will also feed on crayfish, mussels, turtles, frogs, and fish.
Diseases associated with muskrats include Giardia and Tularemia. Giardia is a severe water-born intestinal tract disorder also known as “beaver fever”. Giardia can decimate muskrat populations, often occurring in the summer during drought and low water conditions. Tularemia is a potentially fatal bacterial disease that in humans begins with symptoms of fever and chills, head and muscle aches, cough, progressive weakness, and pneumonia. We have many years of experience in trapping muskrat and understand the importance of preventing further damage to your property. Other management methods we provide along with trapping include securing banks above and below the waterline with chain link fence. Weaver’s Wildlife Control is ecologically responsible, ensuring that only environmentally sound solutions and humane wildlife removal techniques are used for muskrat management.