TRAPPING MUSKRATS FOR BEGINNERS
By Leaha Wirth
I caught my first muskrat at the age of eight and by the time I was eleven, I had a small trap line (a route along which a line of traps is set) consisting of a dozen muskrat traps on the lake in my back yard. Trapping muskrats isn’t difficult, and they are an excellent furbearer for anyone to begin learning to harvest. Concentrations of them can be found in most lakes, ponds, and streams most places in the United States.
Muskrats can be found in lakes or ponds in or near cattails, reeds, tall grasses, and under overhanging banks along any shoreline. These areas provide overhead cover for protection from predators as well as generous feed beds (mats of vegetation muskrats have pulled together to form a resting pad they sit on to eat). Muskrats make their homes from this habitat; so as you survey the area, watch for channels that can lead to muskrat dens. These are the sweet spots for trapping.
TYPES OF TRAPS
A variety of traps are good choices for catching muskrats:
- 110 conibear
- #1 stoploss
- #1 and 1½ long or coilsprings
- colony traps
SETTING THE TRAP
A great place to start is by setting foothold trap where muskrats crawl on and off the feedbed. The channels previously mentioned are also great spots to set conibear or colony traps. In general when surveying channels, where you notice that the bottom of the pond is clean of debris—that’s the spot to make the magic happen.
HOW DO I DO THAT?
All traps are set underwater, so bring your waders and some top-notch rubber gauntlets to protect yourself from uncomfortably wet hands and feet (not to mention—hypothermia…thank you Gore-Tex!). To anchor your traps, add two feet of 14-gauge wire to the chain. Next, cut long saplings and tie the trap to stake. Push saplings firmly into the bottom of the waterbed next to the set. Use only good dry saplings. If you use green saplings and beaver are present, they will eat the saplings off and carry it and your trap away. Always anchor traps securely to prevent an animal escaping with the trap.
Keep in mind, these are only the beginning basics of trapping. It obviously can be a fun, economical hobby to take up, but always check your state’s rules regarding trapping.
Most importantly, we encourage you to attend a trapper education course to learn more about trapping in general. Learn more at http://trappered.com
Find more specifics about muskrats and muskrat trapping here http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/wildlife_pdf/trapbmpsmuskrat.pdf