Each year Prairie State Wildlife receives numerous calls regarding muskrat control on both residential and public wetlands. Burrowing is the biggest concern with this species. If populations are left unchecked banks surrounding ponds and lakes can be so seriously eroded that major repair work is required. In addition to the extensive burrowing, muskrat feeding activities are responsible for extensive damage to ornamental plantings. Prairie State Wildlife removes hundreds of muskrats from our customer’s ponds and wetlands each year. Often we are contracted to remove problem animals and then provide prophylactic monitoring to insure muskrat populations stay within acceptable limits.
Muskrats are found statewide and inhabit sloughs, levees, dikes, ditches, ponds and large lakes. They den in banks or build houses made of aquatic vegetation. These houses are dome shaped structures and can be observed throughout the wetland. Entrances into both bank and house dens are underwater and a “run” is often observed leading to the entrance. Muskrats are prolific breeders as they are a prey species and are often eaten by numerous predators including mink, raccoons, owls, hawks, foxes and coyotes. Female muskrats in the their southern range may have as many as six litters a year and two to three in the northern range. Litter size can be as high as fifteen young but commonly is four to eight. The young are weaned and become independent at four weeks of age. About this time the mother is ready to give birth once again.
Spring muskrat emigration is common and numerous calls come in every spring as muskrats (mostly males looking for mates) are found in window wells of unsuspecting homeowners. An especially memorable service call involved a muskrat that found his way into a local WalMart, and after taking a sightseeing tour of the store was finally captured in the jewelry section!
Trapping is the recommended management tool for this species.