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Friday, December 14, 2012

Have you noticed your pond levels dropping of late?? This may be do to the critter pictured here, a muskrat.  The picture from behind shows his tail, which is a sure fire way to correctly identify the creature as a muskrat and not a beaver, another water mammal that is found in our area.  These animals can cause damage to your small pond by creating channels in your berms.  Unlike beavers, muskrats must eat fresh food every day, and they are predominantly herbivores.
They create dens or burrows in the water for their homes.  They are predated upon in our area most heavily by mink (or trappers).  If you have a muskrat that is creating an issue in your pond, there are a few ways that you can discourage or remove the muskrat from your area.  They are important contributors to aquatic wildlife, and I would not recommend removing them unless they are creating problems in your waterway. 

Depending on where you live, or your water source, the manipulation of water levels is a great way to control muskrat populations. Typically these dens have 2 feet or more of earth above them. However, when fluctuating water levels flood their initial den, muskrats burrow farther into the bank or dig new, higher den chambers close to the surface. In such cases this can weaken the bank, or livestock and other large animals can pierce holes in the bank, starting the erosion process.  To prevent muskrats from tunneling higher in an embankment, keep fluctuations in water levels to a minimum.  Water-level manipulation can also be used to force muskrats to other suitable habitat. Raising the water level in the winter to a near-flood level, and keeping it there, will force the animals out of their dens. Similarly, dropping water levels during the summer will expose muskrat dens to predators, forcing them to seek a more secure area.

You can also use a live trap to catch the muskrat, and remove him to a more suitable area.  If you choose this route, make sure you have permission of the owner or manager of the property where you are moving the muskrat.  It is important to remember that they reside in a wet habitat. 

If he/she is not contributing to bank erosion, or water issues--just enjoy the newest resident of your property--you may even end up attracting some mink to the area who are looking for a meal!!

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