A Step-By-Step Guide to Trapping Muskrats Successfully

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Video how to catch a muskrat

Trapping muskrats has long been a traditional outdoor activity for many enthusiasts and an effective method for controlling the population of this small semi-aquatic rodent.

As a beginner, it’s important to understand the basics of muskrat behavior and their natural habitats to increase chances of success and ensure an ethical and humane trapping experience. With the right knowledge and equipment, even newcomers can quickly become skilled in trapping muskrats.

Trapping Muskrats

Recommended Traps

Body Grip Traps

Body grip traps are effective for muskrat trapping due to their design, which quickly and humanely dispatches the animal.

These traps have a large square frame and powerful springs, allowing muskrats to be easily targeted. When setting these traps, pay attention to the muskrat’s pathways and place the trap accordingly.

Coil Spring Traps

Coil spring traps are also a popular choice for trapping muskrats. These traps consist of two powerful springs attached to a jaw-like mechanism.

When the muskrat triggers the trap, the jaws close with great force, ensuring a quick capture. Coil spring traps should be placed in shallow water near muskrat dens or other frequented locations.

Foothold Traps

Foothold traps are a traditional choice for many trappers. These traps have two jaws that close when a muskrat steps on the trigger, securing the animal’s foot.

Foothold traps can be placed near muskrat dens, on floating debris, or on trails. These traps are known for their versatility, and can be used in different situations.

Conibear Traps

Conibear traps are a type of body grip trap with a rectangular frame. They are designed to capture and kill the muskrat with the strong force of the springs.

Conibear traps are best used in narrow channels where muskrats frequently swim or travel through.

Live Cage Traps

Live cage traps are a humane option for those who want to capture muskrats without causing harm. These traps consist of a metal cage with a door that closes when the muskrat enters to eat the bait inside.

Live Trap

This method allows the trapper to safely relocate the muskrat to another area. When using live cage traps, be sure to check them frequently to avoid causing unnecessary stress to the captured animal.

Float Traps

Float traps are a unique method of trapping muskrats that involve a floating platform, which is placed in water where muskrats are known to forage.

These platforms typically have traps, such as foothold or body grip traps, attached to them. When the muskrat climbs onto the floating platform, it triggers the trap, ensuring a successful capture.

Trap Setting Techniques

Den and Burrow Sets

Den and burrow sets are ideal for targeting muskrats within their natural habitats. To set up a den set, locate an active muskrat burrow entrance, either underwater or above water within the bank. Place a trap at the entrance, ensuring it is stable and secure.

For burrow sets, position the trap inside the burrow, making sure it is properly concealed. Successfully trapping muskrats with den and burrow sets requires patience, observation, and proper trap placement.

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Runway Sets

Muskrats frequently use established trails to move through their territory. A runway set aims to take advantage of these well-traveled paths. Locate a muskrat run, typically characterized by a narrow underwater channel with a clearly visible entrance.

Muskrat Trail

Place a trap within the run approximately six to twelve inches below the water surface. Keep the trap secured with a stake or weight so that it remains in position. The muskrat will swim into the trap as it moves along its usual route.

Slide Sets

A slide set capitalizes on muskrats’ tendency to slide into the water from the bank. Identify an active slide by looking for a narrow, worn path leading from the bank into the water.

Place a trap on the slide, submerging it slightly under the water. Make sure the trap is stable, preferably anchored to nearby vegetation or a stake. As the muskrat uses the slide, it will encounter the trap and be captured.

Float Sets

Float sets are an effective technique for trapping muskrats in deep water. To construct a float set, create or purchase a floating platform made of wood or foam. Attach the trap to the float and anchor it in a location where muskrats are known to be active.

Bait the trap with vegetables or muskrat attractant, making it an enticing target for the muskrats. When the muskrat visits the float set, it will be caught in the trap. Remember to regularly check and reset these traps as needed.

Muskrat Bait and Lure

Natural Food Sources

Muskrats have a diverse diet consisting of various plants and small aquatic animals. You can use some of these natural food sources to attract them to your trap. These include vegetation such as cattails, root vegetables like carrots and parsnip, apples, and other parts of plants that muskrats may eat.

Root Veggies

Additionally, muskrats are known to consume small aquatic animals like crayfish, mussels, frogs, and insects. Using these natural food sources as bait can enhance the effectiveness of your trap.

Commercial Lures

There are commercially available muskrat lures that you can use to attract them more effectively. These lures often contain scents or ingredients that are highly attractive to muskrats, including oil of anise.

When using commercial lures, carefully read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure successful trapping. Keep in mind that some lures may also attract other animals such as beavers, raccoons, or coons, so be prepared to secure your trap accordingly.

Homemade Lures

If you prefer to make your own muskrat lure, you can use some of the natural food sources mentioned earlier, combined with additional scents or ingredients to enhance their attractiveness.

One common homemade lure is a mixture of peanut butter and apple bits. This combination produces a strong scent that can lure muskrats toward your trap.

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However, homemade lures may not be as potent as commercial options, and you may need to test different formulations to find the most effective combination for your specific trapping location. Remember to be cautious when using homemade lures, as they might also attract unintended animals to your trap.

Trapping Safety and Equipment

Protective Clothing

When trapping muskrats, wear protective clothing to ensure safety and reduce the risk of injury. Wearing gloves helps protect your hands from sharp objects and animal bites.

RAPICCA Animal Handling Gloves Bite Proof Kevlar Reinforced Leather Padding Dog,Cat Scratch,Bird Falcon Gloves Grabbing Reptile Squirrel Snake Bite 16in Grey-Black

Additionally, waders are crucial for navigating the wet environments where muskrats are commonly found. This water-resistant gear enables trappers to move comfortably and safely in shallow water while setting and checking the traps.

Trap Preparation and Maintenance

Proper preparation and maintenance of muskrat traps are crucial for optimal performance and to ensure the wellbeing of the animal. Follow the guidelines below:

  • Clean and deodorize traps between each use to eliminate any human scent or remnants of previous catches.
  • Check trap mechanisms for functionality by testing the trigger and springs before each use.
  • Remove any rust or debris that could hinder the trap’s performance or impede its ability to close properly.

Using well-maintained equipment will make your trapping experience more efficient, effective, and humane.

Trap Anchoring and Staking

An essential aspect of muskrat trapping is the correct anchoring and staking of traps. This aids in:

  • Swiftly submerging the trapped animal, ensuring a quick and humane end.
  • Preventing the loss or theft of traps.
  • Reducing the risk of non-target species coming into contact with the trap.

Use sturdy stakes or tangle stakes to anchor traps securely in position. Some options include:

  • Slide sets: These are an effective method for trapping muskrats. Ensure that the trap is appropriately weighted, such as using a #1½ trap or using a tangle stake, to quickly pull the trapped animal underwater.
  • Bank den sets: Place a bodygrip trap at the entrance of a muskrat den and anchor it with a stake or sliding wire system to secure it in place.

Properly anchoring and staking traps will make your trapping experience more successful and ethical.

Catching Multiple Muskrats

Use of Multiple Traps

Catching multiple muskrats can be made more efficient by strategically placing a variety of traps around muskrat habitats. Given that muskrats are abundant in many areas and relatively easy to trap, employing multiple traps can help increase the chances of capturing them successfully.

Multiple Muskrats

Using different types of traps, such as wire mesh traps, box traps, or body-gripping traps, allows trappers to target various muskrat behaviors and movement patterns.

When placing multiple traps, it is important to look for muskrat signs, such as burrows, tunnels, and trails. Observe their feeding areas and place traps near their most active locations. This strategy will increase the chances of catching multiple muskrats, as they will likely be attracted to their preferred feeding and resting spots.

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Colony Trapping

Colony trapping is another effective method for catching multiple muskrats. A muskrat colony trap is designed to catch several muskrats at once without the need for bait.

These traps are made of wire mesh and are typically longer (e.g., 36-inch) to accommodate more muskrats. The trap doors are gravity-operated, allowing muskrats to enter but not exit.

To effectively use a colony trap, place the trap in shallow water near muskrat activity signs. The trap should be positioned at an angle, with one end resting against the bank or vegetation and the other end submerged in the water.

This setup encourages muskrats to enter the trap while they are swimming or searching for food.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most effective trapping method for muskrats?

Muskrats can be effectively captured using foothold traps, live traps, or colony traps. For example, the Tomahawk Rigid Muskrat Colony Trap is 36 inches long and can catch up to 10 muskrats at once. The most suitable method depends on the trapper’s goals and preferences, as well as local regulations.

How can I safely remove muskrats from my pond?

To safely remove muskrats from a pond, use live traps, such as Havahart live muskrat traps. Position the trap near a muskrat’s entry or exit point to increase the chances of successful trapping. After capturing the muskrat, relocate it to another area, complying with local wildlife regulations.

Which bait works best for catching muskrats?

Muskrats are primarily herbivorous and prefer plant-based baits. However, when using slide sets—a technique that places foothold traps along trails where muskrats enter and exit the water—no bait or lure is typically required.

What is the proper way to set up a muskrat live trap?

To set up a muskrat live trap, choose a trap at least 30-40 inches in length. Place the trap near a muskrat slide or at a known entry/exit point. Monitor the trap regularly and always follow the trap’s instructions and applicable regulations.

Are there specific regulations for muskrat trapping?

Yes. Regulations for muskrat trapping vary by state, province, or country. Trappers need to follow local laws, including licensing requirements, trapping methods, and the relocation or disposal of captured animals.

What are the common uses for captured muskrats?

Captured muskrats can be harvested for their fur, meat, or simply removed for pond or land management purposes. If trapping for meat or fur, trappers must ensure they adhere to local wildlife regulations and sustainable trapping practices.

Wrapping up the Guide to Trapping Muskrats Successfully

Muskrats are among the easiest furbearers to trap, making it an accessible venture for those interested in learning about trapping.

Choosing the appropriate trap, understanding helpful techniques for setting traps, and selecting the best bait and lure can drastically improve the chances of successful capture. Next, check out our Complete Guide to Woodchuck Trapping!

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>