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How to Trap a Muskrat

As semi-aquatic mammals, muskrats spend a great deal of time in the water. Some may find that this makes live-trapping a challenge, however Havahart® provides step-by-step instructions below to help you overcome this challenge and successfully catch a muskrat.

1 Choose a Muskrat Trap

muskrat trap

The best live muskrat trap is one that is at least 30-40 inches in length. Muskrat traps often come in 1 or 2-door models. Each type is equally as effective as the other but has its own unique advantages:

  • favored by professionals and gives better bait protection
  • easier for larger animals to fully enter trap
  • dual entry provides a higher catch rate
  • ability to see through trap calms cautious animals
  • can be set with 1 or 2 doors open
Shop Traps »

2 Determine Trap Placement

Position your trap in one of two ways:

  • Along a muskrat run: these are underwater paths muskrats use to travel back and forth to their dens or feeding platforms. The runs are distinct trails in the ground perpendicular to the shoreline.
  • Outside of a burrow entrance: the best place for your trap is directly outside of a muskrat burrow. A typical entrance is about 6-8" in diameter, most often located in a bank or outside wall of the waterway. Muskrat runs often lead to burrow entrances.

3 Bait Your Trap

  • Bait your muskrat trap with apples or starchy root vegetables.
  • It's important to position your bait properly. Place it in a way that forces the muskrat to engage the trigger - see diagram to the right.
  • For more expert baiting tips, read How To: Muskrat Baits »

4 Set Your Trap

With the trap door facing the direction from which the muskrats will be traveling, carefully set your trap according to the manufacturer's instructions. For simple 1-step setup, try an Easy Set® trap.

TIP: It's critical that nothing is in the way of the trigger and close mechanism - make sure there is no debris underneath the trigger pan after it's set.


5 Check Trap Often

Monitoring your trap is very important, because a muskrat can quickly become anxious, hungry and/or vulnerable to predation. Never leave a muskrat trap unattended for long periods of time.


6 You've Caught a Muskrat!

  • Wear heavy gloves and hold the trap away from your body to avoid contact with the muskrat.
  • Approach the trap calmly to avoid startling the animal.
  • Drape a cloth or towel over the trap to keep the muskrat calm during transport.
  • If local laws permit, relocate your muskrat to another habitable wetland environment, at least 5 miles from your property.

7 Keep Muskrats from Returning

plant pruning

Once you've removed the muskrats causing damage on your property, you'll want to keep them from returning. Some steps you can take include:

  • removing all aquatic vegetation from your landscape
  • installing a small fence around your pond or lake
  • overbuilding dams or banks to avoid muskrats from accessing the water from land
  • filling abandoned burrows with gravel, or covering them with wire mesh
  • installing an electronic muskrat repellent

Expert Tips

  • One muskrat's territory can extend as much as 200 feet in diameter, and usually contains multiple burrow entances, runs and feeding platforms. Setting multiple traps in different locations at the same time will ensure a more timely catch.
  • When placing your trap on top of a bank or platform, secure the trap to the surface to prevent it from falling in the water.
  • Your trap must be placed on a level surface in order for the trigger and close mechanism to work properly. One way to ensure that your trap stays level is to secure each corner with a removable stake that pierces the ground.
  • It's very important to understand your local trapping and relocating laws before capturing a muskrat in a live trap.

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