They may look cute but these semi-aquatic rodents are an irritant to pond owners. If you are a pond owner, you may have experienced Muskrats. If you have not, count yourself as lucky! Inhabitants of virtually all aquatic ecosystems, these small mammals are regulars in any pond with enough forage to sustain them. Muskrats are omnivores that typically browse on aquatic vegetation, but will feed on anything close at hand: amphibians, cattails, freshwater mussels, crops, insects, landscape plants, etc. With a high rate of reproduction, widespread distribution and the ability to travel via land or water, they are no strangers to most pond owners. The biggest threat muskrats pose to ponds (and pond owners) is their willingness to dig burrows in places you don’t want holes; dams, around outflows and underneath docks and other structures close to the pond edge. These burrows can pose serious problems to the structural integrity of ponds when left unchecked. The use of rock rip-rap and other physical barriers that discourage digging are the best methods for protecting key features of your pond. Successful trapping can help mitigate damage when needed but must be done periodically. Always check your local wildlife laws and regulations before trapping or relocating any animals. When areas aren’t suitable for burrows and bank dens, muskrats can construct hutches; raised mounds of vegetation and mud used as feeding platforms, shelter and nest sites. Although muskrats have the potential to cause problems, they are not a nuisance to every pond and can actually be an interesting and entertaining animal to observe in their natural environment. Check out examples of their habitats below.
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