Imagine a large rodent that can swim 3 miles per hour and hold their breath for 15 minutes at a time. Except this critter isn’t a figment of your imagination – it’s the humble muskrat. Found near freshwater wetlands all throughout North America, these creatures are valuable fur-bearing animals that hunters trap during certain seasons. Around your home, however, these critters can cause a fair amount of chaos.
Muskrats invading your pond or pool?
Are you having muskrat problems? Call Critter Control today at (574) 825-1079 in South Bend and Elkhart,
or (260) 632-5106 in the Fort Wayne area and our trained staff will be there to help your muskrat removal.
What do Muskrats Look Like?
Muskrats look like a cross between a rat and a beaver. They reach two feet in length, including their tails that make up nearly half their length. Like a rat, they have a long tail that, similar to a beaver, is somewhat flat. But it’s narrower than a beaver tail and wider than a rat tail. They possess tiny, beady eyes and rounded ears. Their bodies are stout and rounded, similar to those of prairie dogs.
Muskrats are covered in thick, coarse fur that ranges from nearly black to white, depending on the season, location and individual, however most muskrats are dark brown. Muskrats have webbed hind feet to aid in swimming and shorter front paws suited for burrowing and digging for food.
Like other rodents, these critters have large front teeth that they keep in check by chewing constantly.
Where Do Muskrats Live?
Muskrats stick close to water as it’s their main mode of easy transportation. Lakes, rivers, marshes, ponds, slow-moving rivers, creeks, swamps and other wetlands provide the best habitat for muskrats. Don’t mistake the term “fresh water” for unpolluted sources – muskrats can deal with a moderate amount of damage to waterways and sometimes venture into cities or towns.
A muskrat chooses a site for their den close to water sources, burrowing into river banks and hiding the entrance below water. If there’s no suitable bank to be found, they’ll build a mound of bracken and other vegetation to cover their den’s entrance.
It’s highly unlikely you’ll ever see a muskrat in your home, but those with ponds, farms, irrigation systems, docks, boathouses or marinas can become familiar with these furry pests.
Are Muskrats Dangerous?
Muskrats don’t usually pose a hazard to humans, pets or livestock, but like all other animals, they may bite and scratch when cornered. Muskrats carry the zoonotic disease tularemia, and their droppings contaminate water, rendering it unsafe to drink because of a parasite called giardia. Those who do drink such water may develop flu-like symptoms sometimes called “beaver fever”. Requiring an antiprotozoal medication that may cause gastrointestinal effects on par with those of the illness itself, this can be a huge problem indeed.
Muskrat burrowing habits may also pose a danger to people or livestock when a shallow burrow is broken into by a foot or hoof, leading to a sprained ankle or other injury.
What Are the Signs of a Muskrat Problem?
True to their name, muskrats produce a musky odor with their scent glands that can linger for some time. Pungent and quite odiferous, it’s possible to notice the scent near their burrows or food sources.
While the entrance to a muskrat burrow itself may be hard to notice, the underground tunnel systems they create may cause a loss of vegetation above ground. When muskrats find a good spot to settle down, they invite their friends and when populations grow out of control, they’ll strip an area of every available food source and piece of vegetation, causing mass devastation that can take decades to replenish.
How to Deal with a Muskrat Problem
Like other pest problems, a muskrat problem can be effectively handled by exclusion. Applying a wire mesh barrier to pond shores or other embankments can make it unpleasant for muskrats to set up their homes there. Engineering a more gently graded slope, rather than a steep drop off, is also an effective way to make an area less appealing for muskrat populations.
Exclusion only works to a certain extent, though. If a muskrat population has already set up shop on your property, you’ll need to enlist the help of a professional who’s certified to remove the critters. Because they’re fur-bearing animals, they retain a protected status and only those licensed to remove them outside of trapping season can do so legally – regardless of the amount of damage they’re causing.
The wildlife experts at Critter Control aren’t hunters and will work in a safe, humane and legal way to trap and remove muskrats from your property. Rather than let a muskrat population get out of hand, call us at (574) 825-1079 today to speak to a specialist about your muskrat problem.