Muskrat Habits and Habitat: Know Their Behavior

muskrat swimming in water near reeds

The most trapped furbearer in the United States is the muskrat. They are highly adaptive animals and can be found in healthy populations in all corners of the country. They are one of the first animals a trapper targets and some would mistakenly say trapping them is easy.

To truly understand your target is to successfully trap them. Once you know the natural tendencies of the muskrat you will be far better prepared to run your trapline.

Muskrat Behavior

To fully understand the muskrat you must learn about their preferred diet and where they like to live. The muskrat is a water animal so to find muskrat your search should begin where there is year round water available.

Start looking in your trapping area for lakes, streams, rivers, marshes, ponds, drainage ditches, marshes, and beaver ponds.

You can find rats in areas that suffer from periodic dry periods but these spots are not capable of holding the same population numbers as areas with year round water.

But just because there is year round water doesn’t guarantee a high muskrat population. The right diet must also be available.

Muskrat Diet

Muskrats prefer a diet of roots and bulbs of aquatic plants. Primary plants are lily pads and cattails, wild grass and even bark from water trees. A muskrat will feast on shellfish when available and will even eat carrion when no other food is available.

When located near farmland, muskrats will feast on crops and are particularly fond of carrots, corn, celery, and apples.

Muskrats don’t travel far from water for food but will scamper up to fifty yards for food when necessary.

Muskrat Shelter

Water is an important aspect of a muskrat’s shelter but they do require more to remain safe from predators and to raise their young.

Muskrats live in burrows or muskrat houses.

A muskrat burrow will be found on rivers, ponds and streams that offer high banks that allow the muskrat to create nests above the water level. Their burrow will have an underwater entrance.

A muskrat house is comprised of local vegetation and will be found on marshes, ponds and lakes with low banks.

Occasionally you will find muskrats make homes out of culverts and drainage pipes, hollowed out logs and even beaver houses.

When scouting near farmland keep in mind that muskrat seldom make houses near cattle pastures are cattle are prone to cave in their entrances.

Areas that are sandy or comprised of gravel are often ignored by muskrat as these locations are not suitable for making a den. Muskrats live where they are able to dig and easily construct a house.


Muskrat populations thrive where water and suitable food sources converge. When scouting look for the habitat that a muskrat wants and you will have little trouble finding muskrat tracks. Learning how to trap these locations require techniques catered to their particular needs. Read the following articles for more tips on how to trap muskrat.

Written by Fred

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