Muskrats are rodents who live in and near water. If you have a lake or a pond on your property you may have to deal with muskrats at some point. So why keep these rodents away? Muskrats can cause property damage, such as weakening the banks of lakes or ponds.
There are several ways to keep muskrats away from your property. These include using different methods to startle them such as sprinklers or loud noises, removing their food supplies, professional removal, and using scents of predators near where muskrats build homes and feed.
Read on as we go over the different methods you can use to remove those pesky muskrats from your property for good!
What Kind of Damage do Muskrats Cause?
For how small they are, these rascals can do a lot of damage!
The most significant damage that muskrats cause is with their burrowing. Muskrats are found mainly near water and marsh areas. Most of the damage that muskrats cause is to structures in and around water.
Muskrat burrowing can drain ponds on your property. Burrowing activity can also cause damage to any docks on your property.
Signs That You Have Muskrats on Your Property
There are a few things you will want to look for if you are trying to see if your property damage is caused by muskrats. Because most of the damage they cause is a result of their burrowing, piles of dirt and canals near waterways are a good indication that you are dealing with these aquatic rodents.
In general, the signs that you have muskrats include:
- Muskrat scat
- Burrowing trails
If you notice any paths just below the surface that leads to a den or a floating vegetation platform, you’re looking at a muskrat run! This is another tipoff that you have a muskrat problem.
Keep Muskrats Away With Certain Smells
Using scents that are offensive to muskrats is one way to keep them away from your property. When you are using this method, you will want to place the deterrents in specific areas so they are most effective.
The downside to using scents and smells is that you’ll need to replace them often to keep them effective.
The best place to use scent deterrents to keep muskrats away are at the edges of your property, around your garden, in any areas you see disturbed piles of dirt that suggests burrowing, and near trash cans.
Keep an eye out for other signs of muskrat presence and place the deterrents there as well. Below you’ll find a list of the smells that muskrats hate.
You will have to repeatedly apply this type of deterrents often because they will be washed away with rain and will fade over time, making them less effective, so be vigilant with this deterrent!
Cayenne Pepper Deters Muskrats
Cayenne pepper is a hot and spicy pepper that is often used in cooking. This delicious pepper can also be used to deter pests from your yard.
Cayenne pepper can be used as a taste deterrent for muskrats. If you want to use cayenne pepper to keep muskrats out of your yard, you can sprinkle a product like this Prima Spice Hot Cayenne Pepper in areas where you notice muskrat activity.
The cayenne pepper works by overwhelming the muskrat’s sense of smell, which isn’t that great in the first place. Just like it makes our mouths tingle, eyes water, and nose run, it does the same to muskrats. We might like it, but muskrats find it overpowering.
Fox Urine Keeps Muskrats Away
To keep many different types of rodents or pests away from your yard, you can use urine from a predator as a deterrent. In the case of muskrats, you can use fox or coyote urine to keep muskrats away.
To use predator urine as a muskrat deterrent, you will want to mark an area where you have noticed muskrats borrowing or building dens near the pond or lake on your property.
Fox urine is an effective way to keep muskrats away as it can signal to the muskrats that a predator is near. If they smell the predator enough times, they may decide to move to a different pond.
You can buy a product like PredatorPee Original Fox Urine to create a perimeter around your waterways that will likely deter muskrats from feeding, burrowing, or building a home there. This product also comes with scent tags, which can be used instead of depositing the urine directly on the ground.
Use Garlic & Pepper to Get Rid of Muskrats
Combining two scents together that are unappealing to muskrats is another way to use scents that muskrats do not like to deter them. Garlic is a strong smell that muskrats find distasteful and pepper has a strong taste that will deter muskrats.
You can plant garlic and pepper plants or you can sprinkle the spices around your waterways. You can also add the dried spices to a spray bottle of water and spray the areas where you notice muskrat activity. However, if you have a pond or a lake that is even mid-sized, this option can be quite expensive.
Using scents to repel muskrats is most likely a good option as a backup deterrent because of the cost and the maintenance of constantly having to replace and replenish the plants, or re-treat the areas with dried spices or a liquid repellant formula.
If you want to know about more scents that can repel muskrats, check out our piece, 9 Scents That Muskrats Hate (And How to Use Them) to learn more!
Using Muskrat Repellants to Keep Them Away
If you don’t want to mix your own muskrat repellent using scents they hate, you can buy a premixed formula. Many of these pre-made repellants will work on several different types of rodents and pests on your property.
Natural Armor Animal And Rodent Repellent Spray works on skunks, raccoons, mice, and other rodents, including muskrats. Using a spray like this has the benefit of being ready to spray. It’s also waterproof for up to 90 days so that you don’t have to worry about constantly spraying the areas where you notice muskrats or damage caused by them.
Another option is granules like the Repels-All Animal Repellent Granules. Similar to using cayenne pepper powder or garlic, you just need to sprinkle these in areas where you notice muskrat activity.
With both of these products, it’s important to always follow the directions on the label and to understand whether or not it is safe to use around waterways.
Trapping Muskrats on Your Property
Trapping is the most popular and most effective way to remove muskrats away from your property. However, it does come with some risks that you’ll want to consider before going this route.
Muskrats are persistent, so one thing to remember is that once you remove a muskrat from one area of your property, they will try to come back and burrow in a different area.
Depending on the type of trap used, they can be placed and secured in shallow or deeper water near where the muskrat enters the water from the water bank.
If you are using traps to remove muskrats, you might want to consider implementing some of the other methods of keeping them away as well so that your property becomes an unappealing place to try and make a home.
Make sure you call your local wildlife control office to determine if trapping muskrats is legal in your area.
If you are going to use traps to remove muskrats from your property you should call a professional as muskrats will bite or scratch when trapped.
Sprinklers Can Keep Muskrats Away
If trapping is not a method you are interested in using, there are still some other options that you have to keep muskrats away. Sprinklers are a good deterrent if you have them positioned properly to keep muskrats from burrowing or building dens.
It may seem like a weird deterrent. After all, muskrats LIVE in the water, don’t they? Nonetheless, muskrats don’t necessarily like being sprayed with water.
Automatic sprinklers, like the Havahart 5277 Motion-Activated Animal Repellant And Sprinkler can detect animal movement by heat and movement up to 60 feet away and spray out a blast of water to scare the unwanted muskrats away.
Using a sprinkler system to deter muskrats is a relatively inexpensive and eco-friendly way to keep pests away from the lakes and ponds on your property. Mixing up the location of your sprinklers can further deter these pesky rodents so that even if they decide to come back, they’ll still be deterred.
Remove Muskrats’ Food Supply
Muskrats eat a wide variety of different types of plants and animals. Some of the most common plants in their diets are cattails, grasses, acorns, roots of waterway plants, and pondweed. Muskrats also eat small birds, snails, salamanders, and fish.
Because muskrats have such a varying diet and are voracious eaters, they can truly wreak havoc on the plant and animal life that lives in and near the pond or lake on your property. If muskrats find your property to be a good source of food, they will be sure to try and make a home and breed there.
Removing a muskrat’s food supply, or as much of it as you can is another way that you can deter muskrats from calling your waterways home. Even if you can’t remove everything that a muskrat will eat, making their food supply sparse will help.
Muskrats also like to feed in shady areas, out of the direct sun. Trimming back vegetation around the edges of your waterways will not only remove some of the muskrat’s food supply but will also create an unappealing environment for them to feed.
Find Muskrat Points of Entry
One of the first ways you may notice that you have a problem with muskrats is that you will notice signs of borrows, runs, or dens near or in the ponds or lakes on your property.
The first step to implementing any type of muskrat deterrent method on your property is to find where they are entering. Although muskrats do burrow, this may not be the best detector of muskrat presence on your property.
There are other behaviors and patterns that muskrats display that can be seen sooner than burrowing patterns if you know where to look.
In an article from the Wildlife Damage Management Series from The US Department of Agriculture, they note that the damage caused by burrowing may actually be one of the later signs of damage that can be noticed on your property.
They suggest that you walk along the perimeter of your lakes or ponds and look for signs of dens near the water’s edge, lodges on the water, or signs of runs that muskrats leave as they build their shelters.
Once you locate these dens, you can use the other deterrent methods to keep them away for good!
The Best Way to Keep Muskrats Away
As with most methods to keep pests away, you will want to use a multi-pronged approach for the best success.
You can start by implementing any of the methods listed above if you notice that you are seeing and suspicious rodent activity like dens, vegetative floats, or the little rodents themselves.
Still, the most effective way to keep muskrats away from your property is by trapping them near the water source that they live near, in their dens, or where they burrow.
If you are going to use traps to remove muskrats from your property you may want to call a professional who can advise you on the best and safest way to use this method of muskrat removal. You can also hire a professional to remove muskrats from your waterways for you.
Once your current muskrat problem is taken care of, you can try using some of the methods listed above to keep muskrats from returning to eat, build homes, and breed near the waterways on your property.
Wrapping it Up!
Muskrats can cause a lot of damage to your property. If you have lakes or ponds on your property it is a good habit to schedule certain times to walk the perimeter of your lakes or ponds and check for signs of muskrats.
By regularly checking for muskrats on your property, you will be able to spot these water rodents hopefully before they root in too deep into the ecosystem of your yard and start to do a lot of damage.
To recap, the 9 ways to keep muskrats away from your property indefinitely include:
- Cayenne Pepper
- Predator Urine
- Use muskrat repellents
- Eliminating food sources
- Find their points of entry
Noticing the presence of muskrats before they really start to call your property home is key to keeping the damage caused by muskrats under control and to keeping muskrats away indefinitely.
Lantz, David Ernest. The muskrat. US Department of Agriculture, 1910.
Bellrose, Frank C., and Jessop B. Low. “The influence of flood and low water levels on the survival of muskrats.” Journal of Mammalogy 24.2 (1943): 173-188.
Higgins, Cheri R., and William J. Mitsch. The role of muskrats (Ondtra zibethicus) as ecosystem engineers in created freshwater marshes. 2001.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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