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Feb 23

Muskrat Trapping on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Delaware, Virginia

Posted by: bigmike


Trapping Eastern Shore Marsh Rabbits

Muskrats are aquatic rodents that are the size of a rabbit and are native to Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia's Eastern Shore.  Their hind feet are partially webbed and they have able hand-like front feet with a waterproof coat.  Muskrats are excellent swimmers and live in wetlands such as well-vegetated sloughs, lakes, creeks, rivers and small potholes.  Muskrats are known for the burrow systems they dig in the ground adjacent to the water with an underwater entrance.  During very dry times muskrats move where there is water available.

Muskrats are generally 12 to 16 inches long and 2 to 5 pounds in weight.  Muskrats have 2 to 3 litters a year with 1 to 10 pups per litter.  The gestation period for muskrats is 20 to 30 days.  Muskrats are somewhat active during the day but mostly move at night.

Muskrats create a great amount of damage to pond dams and land adjacent to water they inhabit.  The best way to control muskrats is trapping with either leg traps, body traps or cage traps.

When trapping muskrat please consult your local game and fish department for state laws and regulation concerning trapping.  Always remember to never trap where there is a chance of catching someones pets or other non target animals.

Suggested Trap Size: The # 1 Long Spring Leg Trap, #1.5 Coil Spring Leg Trap, #110 Body Trap or the Large Live Animal Cage Trap. The most popular trap for trapping muskrats is the #110 Body Trap.

Trapping of Muskrats: Muskrats are confined to a limited area of water and are relatively easy to trap.  They are a good break in species for the beginning trapper.  You can see where muskrats have been coming out of the water to eat and can place traps in those areas.  You can also use the “floating log” set.  Use a 2” x 10” plank about 2 feet long with a trap on the plank. Place the plank at the edge of the water with a lure on the plank. Make sure you attach the trap to the plank and secure the trap with a stake. Muskrats will stand on the plank to feed and in turn be caught.

You can also place traps in their runways.  Runways that are partially exposed and filled with from 3 to 4 inches of water are the best to trap in.  If the water is deeper then the muskrat will possibly swim over the trap. Use the #110 Body Trap for this set.

Muskrats are easily caught after freeze up by trapping them in their houses.  Be very sure that the ice is safe before venturing out on it!   Each muskrat house has a main chamber in it.  Tunnels from the main chamber lead to smaller “rooms” and to the main entrance which is constructed under the ice.  Open the house carefully, using a hay knife or similar tool, and insert the trap. Place the trap on the floor of the chamber.  Most trappers use a wire extension in the trap chain and wire it to a stick outside the house.  Leave enough slack chain by the trap so that the muskrat can dive and drown itself.  This type of set can also be used at the larger muskrat feeders with good results.  Carefully replace the material taken out when opening the house and tamp it firmly back in place.  This is very important!  If you do not tightly close the hole you made in the side of the house, the house and its occupants will freeze.

When a water area is frozen, active muskrats bank dens can be easily located by looking for air bubbles under the ice.  In runways that are being used, the activity of the ‘rat often stirs up the mud, making the runway look cloudy.  Cut a hole in the ice and set your trap in the runway.  If the water is more than three inches deep, place the trap on some mud or grass or on a stone so that it is about three inches below the ice.

Other under ice sets can be made.  The leaning board set can be used under the ice with the trap about eight inches below the ice and a bait fastened above the trap.  Beaver type sets can be modified for trapping muskrats under the ice.  A bait box set over a hole in the ice with a trap inside, can also be effective.  Most such sets entail considerable effort and are no more effective than trapping in the house.

Suggested baits: Muskrat Lure #1 Lure , Fresh vegetables, parsnips, carrots, sweet apples, oil of anise or musk from another muskrat.  Carrots and Apples are the best bait.

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