About the Study Guide

You are looking at a preview of what’s in the timed Today's Trapper Course. Feel free to look around, but you’ll need to register to begin progress toward getting your Trapper Education Certification Card.

Learn More Register for the Course

Muskrats are common furbearers. They are very popular with trappers.

  • They are easy to trap.
  • They are clean to handle and have a sweet, musky smell.
  • They occupy a limited home range that is easy to understand.

Coil-spring foothold traps, longspring foothold traps, and bodygrip traps are recommended for trapping muskrats. However, foothold traps should be used only in submersion systems. The following types of sets are effective with muskrats.

Slide Set for Muskrats

Muskrats leave trails where they enter and leave the water. These trails are sometimes called slides. The slide set is very effective for capturing muskrats. No bait or lure is needed. Follow these steps to make the set.

  • Place a foothold trap two or three inches deep where the muskrat's slide enters the water.
  • Set the trap in line with the slide. This means the jaws, when released, should be parallel to the bank. With a longspring trap, rotate the end of the spring toward the trigger mechanism so that both jaws will lie flat.
  • Wire the trap to a stake or a rock in deep water. A tangle stake or sliding wire may be used. The weight of a #1½ trap or the use of a tangle stake will ensure that a trapped animal is pulled underwater and dies quickly.
Slide set for muskrats

Bank Den Set (Bank Hole Set) for Muskrats

A bodygrip trap placed at the entrance of a muskrat bank den is another good set.

Use these clues to locate muskrat dens.

  • If you see chewed-up plants floating on the water, a muskrat den may be nearby.
  • If you spot a den, look for freshly dug dirt in front of the underwater opening to see if it is an active den.
Bank den set for muskrats

Feed Bed Set for Muskrats

In marsh or swamp trapping, traps can be set at feed beds (piles of plant scraps where muskrats feed regularly).

  • If the feed bed is large, more than one trap may be set.
  • Place traps where the animal climbs onto the feed bed. Stake traps in opposite directions.
  • If the feed bed is unused, use lure to draw the furbearers back to the bed.

Keep in mind that mink and raccoons also visit feed beds. Cover traps properly.

Float Set for Muskrats

Muskrats often climb onto floating logs. Float sets make use of this habit.

  • Choose an area where the water is more than a foot deep.
  • Set a foothold trap on a floating log or a homemade platform.
  • When a muskrat is trapped, it will enter the water. The weight of the trap will pull it under.

Ducks and other birds also might land on floating logs or platforms. Cover traps with branches or sticks to prevent birds from stepping on these traps.

Float set for muskrats

Runway Set for Muskrats

Muskrats travel back and forth in shallow water, creating a runway in the mud. A runway set takes advantage of this behavior.

  • Place a bodygrip trap in the runway. Camouflage the trap with vegetation. Make sure the water is deep enough to prevent muskrats from breathing.
  • Be aware that some water sources may freeze at night during cold weather, causing water levels to drop. In this case, place the trap a few inches below the daytime water level.

Spring Run Set for Muskrats

A trap placed where a small stream enters a larger body of water is another good set for both muskrat and mink. Use a foothold trap with a tangle stake or sliding wire.