Controlling muskrats in the pond

Muskrats are seldom far from water and just might find your farm pond as the perfect place to hang out. They build homes out of mud and vegetation and raise a few litters of young muskrats every year. They’re valuable fur-bearers, but the problems begin when they dig tunnels in the bank of the pond. This burrowing behavior can be devastating to an earthen dam by weakening its integrity.

Bob Pierce is an Extension fish and wildlife specialist at the University of Missouri. He says bank stabilization methods can help deter muskrat activity.

"By using rip rap, you know, large rocks, or maybe a 6”-12” layer of pea gravel along the bank of the dam to help stabilize it. And even putting down 1”-2” hog wire, or mesh wire, against the bank can help prevent those rodents from burrowing in," says Pierce.

A muskrat burrow can go 10-to-12-feet back into the dam. It’s often located under water, but you can tell where they’re coming up from. Signs that muskrats have moved in include cut vegetation and runways. Cattails and other aquatic vegetation are valuable in a pond, but they also provide a food source for muskrats, especially if there’s an overabundance of it.

Pierce recommends contacting a professional expert who can help you find the best course of action. They might recommend trapping to remove a muskrat.

"Different states have different regulations on trapping and the time of year when trapping is legal. Now, as a pond owner, if you do have damage, you can contact your local conservation agent with the Department of Natural Resources or Department of Conservation and let them know you’re experiencing damage," he says. "Then you can be able to trap and solve that damage problem throughout the year."

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