Virginia.gov

Muskrat

  • No Kill Permit Required from Department to kill on your own land during closed season
  • You must contact the Commonwealth Attorney's office in your county/city for information regarding legal methods of animal removal. Local ordinances are usually more restrictive than state laws.
  • There is a continuous open trapping season in the following localities: Arlington, Chesterfield, Fairfax, Henrico, James City, Loudoun, Prince William, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Roanoke and York Counties.

The muskrat gets its name from its resemblance to a rat and from the musky odor that is produced by scent glands. With brown fur and partially webbed hind feet, the muskrat can look like a beaver. However, it is much smaller, 18-25 inches long (including the tail) and weighing between 2-4 pounds, with a rat-like tail. Muskrats generally inhabit wetlands with an abundant supply of aquatic vegetation, such as swamps, coastal and freshwater marshes, lakes, ponds, and slow-moving streams. They feed primarily on aquatic plants, including cattails, sedges, water lilies, arrowheads, and duckweeds. Occasionally, they will eat crayfish, snails, mussels, frogs, insects, and slow-moving fish.

Muskrats are active throughout the year and, although mainly nocturnal, are sometimes seen during the day. They are susceptible to cold and wind and spend more time in their dens during winter. The muskrat's normal home range is usually within 200 yards of its den.

Sometimes muskrats are considered a nuisance if they damage a garden or crops by their feeding activities or if they burrow into dams and dikes. Planting a garden or crops beyond the animal's normal 200-yard home range or enclosing the garden and/or field with fencing can effectively solve some problems.

Most often, muskrat damage is associated with burrowing and digging activities that can weaken dikes and dams. The following suggestions can help reduce muskrat damage to existing dikes/dams or can be applied during construction as a preventive measure:

  • Gentle slopes (a 3:1 ratio or less) formed on shorelines will prove less attractive to muskrats than steep slopes.
  • Construct a 10-foot wide shelf of earth projecting from the face of a dam into the impoundment at water level to create an effective muskrat barrier. This will also strengthen the dam and reduce the erosion caused by wave action.
  • Riprap areas susceptible to damage to create an effective muskrat barrier. Stone should be at least 6 inches thick and should be placed 3 feet below the water level and 1 foot above the water level.
  • Placing 1-2 inches of galvanized mesh wire on the inside of the dam will prevent muskrat damage. Wire should extend 3 feet below the water level and 1 foot above the water level.

If these techniques do not solve the problem, you can contact a licensed trapper or a critter removal service, which you can find in your local phone directory.