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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May. 21, 2012
    Posts
    1,561

    Default Muskrat love?? (or hate?)

    I'd like to hear people's experiences with muskrats.

    If you follow my posts (not like I expect that) but you'd know that I'm a naturalist type, enjoy wildlife and native plants and the balance of the ecosystem. I like my farm pond "wild" and enjoy the frogs, turtles and wild birds who come here. I am also not against nudging "wild" a little with my own influence... like dragging an old dead log out of the woods so the turtles would have a place to bask- and how my heart soared to see them lined up on it just a few hours after we placed the log. I don't like to use chemicals and in the 10 years since we built it- have allowed the catttails to grow up on the far bank of the pond to provide nesting for red winged blackbirds and the scores of other critters who enjoy their shelter.

    So now- the pond life evolves- from the fish who appeared without stocking the pond- to amphibians, reptiles and birds- to a large mammal- the muskrat.

    I think that they must think they have found heaven. They eat cattails (and they are welcome to them!!) I also discovered that apples are a popular bait for trapping muskrats- and I have an apple tree next to the pond- I often scolded my kids for tossing damaged apples in the water (wasted) instead of feeding them to the horses (enjoyed) ... well- now I know that those apples were very much enjoyed!!

    I have found one collapsed burrow on one bank, and another hut construction in the branches of a willow growing out of the bank. I love the look of their little wigwam houses- but I fear that my pond is deep and banks steep- that it's more likely that they will gravitate toward bank burrowing architecture than swampy constructions.

    I am a bit ambivalent at this moment, never having lived with muskrats- I am half excited and half scared. I feel relief that they are valued by trappers for their fur- in the case that I do need to get rid of them- I think it would be easy for me to get free help with it- on the other hand- I do not have "kill them all" as my first reaction to an animal who is taking advantage of the habitat that I nurtured - apparently- just to their liking.

    Before I declare Muskrat love... I'd like to hear the experiences of others.


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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr. 2, 2009
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    5,584

    Default

    We encounter them very often working in streams and rivers. Never encountered them causing any issues with bank instability, I just get annoying when they eat endangered mussels, LOL, I wish they'd stick to the damn Asian clams!

    Funny little things to watch. Now you are not letting horses wander about on your streambank are you?
    Life doesn't have perfect footing.

    Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
    We Are Flying Solo



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul. 19, 2007
    Location
    ohio
    Posts
    1,364

    Default

    They will completely undermine the banks of your pond. My parents had a bunch of them and the banks are collapsing where they made their tunnels...they trapped them. It was a fight with my mom though...she is a tree hugger extraordinaire...


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  4. #4
    Join Date
    May. 21, 2012
    Posts
    1,561

    Default

    The pond is not in the official horse pasture, the fence sits back with a twenty foot buffer or more but I do put the horses in there sometimes to graze it down to make mowing easier. It would not be a tragedy to switch to no livestock or goats only. This is also an area I have considered putting a sand trap type excavation for turtle nesting ( has anyone done that? I have heavy clay soil.) as well as a small grove of shelter pine trees to provide an avenue for wildlife such as deer to have shelter on the way to a drink... as well as a horse windbreak and green heron nest site. so I did have long term plans to develop it as wildlife habitat. A friend warned of the bank cave in danger... That it can flip a tractor right into a pond. Yikes!



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul. 19, 2007
    Location
    ohio
    Posts
    1,364

    Default

    I definitely wouldn't let the horses by it...really deep holes develop when the bank starts caving in. We have to be careful walking and mowing around my parent's pond now due to all the holes.

    Another concern is that all the holes and tunnels they cause can cause your pond to leak.


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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr. 2, 2009
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    5,584

    Default

    Oooo, I like the turtle nesting area idea. My guess is that the muskrats would behave differently in a pond environment as opposed to along a river and we only work in the latter. You can get some pet mink, they love the taste of muskrat.
    Life doesn't have perfect footing.

    Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
    We Are Flying Solo



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb. 14, 2001
    Location
    Lexington, KY / Ocala, FL
    Posts
    3,429

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by asb2517 View Post
    I definitely wouldn't let the horses by it...really deep holes develop when the bank starts caving in. We have to be careful walking and mowing around my parent's pond now due to all the holes.

    Another concern is that all the holes and tunnels they cause can cause your pond to leak.
    This. I spent a summer on a farm with a large (6ac+), beautiful pond stocked with fish. All sorts of wildlife used the ponds-- deer, coyotes, ducks, geese, herons, and even an osprey and a bald eagle (it was AWESOME to watch them fishing!). However, it also became Muskrat Heaven.

    The muskrats dug so many holes they drained the pond. Where it used to be 20' deep, it drained down to barely 6' or less. The beach increased by 50' in places. Fish were dying, as the surface area shrank dramatically and there wasn't enough oxygen, structure, or food to support them all. Huge craters and tunnels became visible on the banks where the rats had made their burrows; the shoreline caved in and washed out in many places. The muskrats had to go; a .22 with a scope worked well, and IMO was more humane than the "traps" that drowned them in their underwater burrows. They don't see very well, so it wasn't hard to walk to the shore and pick them off; many times 2 or 3 of them sat on a submerged tree stump, and would remain sitting there as bullets whizzed by or hit the other one.

    I love watching wildlife...but the muskrats were causing destruction to so many other species they wore out their welcome in this pond. They were free to inhabit two other nearby ponds-- spring-fed, that always stayed full.
    “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
    ? Albert Einstein

    ~AJ~


    1 members found this post helpful.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr. 13, 2008
    Location
    NY
    Posts
    4,279

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by EventerAJ View Post
    This. I spent a summer on a farm with a large (6ac+), beautiful pond stocked with fish. All sorts of wildlife used the ponds-- deer, coyotes, ducks, geese, herons, and even an osprey and a bald eagle (it was AWESOME to watch them fishing!). However, it also became Muskrat Heaven.

    The muskrats dug so many holes they drained the pond. Where it used to be 20' deep, it drained down to barely 6' or less. The beach increased by 50' in places. Fish were dying, as the surface area shrank dramatically and there wasn't enough oxygen, structure, or food to support them all. Huge craters and tunnels became visible on the banks where the rats had made their burrows; the shoreline caved in and washed out in many places. The muskrats had to go; a .22 with a scope worked well, and IMO was more humane than the "traps" that drowned them in their underwater burrows. They don't see very well, so it wasn't hard to walk to the shore and pick them off; many times 2 or 3 of them sat on a submerged tree stump, and would remain sitting there as bullets whizzed by or hit the other one.

    I love watching wildlife...but the muskrats were causing destruction to so many other species they wore out their welcome in this pond. They were free to inhabit two other nearby ponds-- spring-fed, that always stayed full.
    A colony of muskrats caused the collapse of a six acre pond? I'd be looking for other reasons.

    OP, the farm next to the house where I grew up has a small irrigation pond that is about an acre in the spring, smaller in the fall. Drains down to a boggy type swamp. The muskrats live in the bog and come up the bank to pick off the frogs. In the 10+ years I hacked through this pond (you have to scramble along the bank and hope your horse doesn't slip 20ft down into the bog) I never ever saw the muskrat colony insult the integrity of the ridge/bank we crossed on. They would tunnel through the ridge and sit on the bank and wait for the frogs to spawn.

    I would pursue relocation before having someone shoot them. They never bothered me, and they are amusing to watch.


    2 members found this post helpful.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May. 21, 2012
    Posts
    1,561

    Default

    I can imagine a big pond being harmed by a small leak (which becomes a big leak) Six acres is just a matter of the size of land flooded by the pond dam- it's no reflection of the "strength" of the pond- that dam could possibly be the same size that holds my 3/4 acre pond. If a small pond can be harmed, a big pond can also be harmed.

    So my update on the muskrats is that they are building at least two huts. The huts are COOL. I'm staying positive about their residence here at this point...

    BUT!

    A friend is hunting on our land and he took a picture the other day of a MINK in my creek (dry creek except for when my dam overflows in rain) I have never seen mink in my life except on my Grandma and my Aunt- never have I seen one on my farm here- and I am also really excited about his/her/ their presence here as well- and mink happen to be a predator of muskrats.

    Likely the mink is here because the muskrats are here too.

    So now I am going to find out what mink sound like because it might explain some of the strange sounds I hear at night.



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