Who has dealt with MUSKRATS???

sharon_greenacreAugust 30, 2010

Hey, folks, long time no see.

As far back as 2001 I was known as Sharon_Green or NorahS. Hopefully this will be my last incarnation!

Old-timers may remember my 2004 re-build, converting my 9' X 15' water garden to a 15' X 30' pond with filter system and 2-tier waterfall. At the time I seriously considered covering the entire liner with rocks and mortar, but it seemed like too much work. If only!!!

To make a long story short, I've got a muskrat problem, and while figuring out what to do it's gotten worse, because muskrats like to dig their dens under water. But the hole lets the water out, so they need to start it lower. Yikes!

I'm resigning myself to the fact that it's beyond patching and I need another big roll of EPDM. And this time I WILL do the rocks-and-mortar thing, but I fear the little darlings will chew through it before I get it covered. I plan to call the state Fish & Game Dept. tomorrow and ask for advice. I'd really like a non-lethal solution if possible.

Just wondering what experiences/solutions others have had.

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Wow! That's a tough thing to deal with!. We had muskrats in a natural slough on the farm I grew up on. My brother and I were fishing for frogs one day when we were little and he must was bitten by a muskrat--nasty. The only thing I can thing of is Fish and Game might be able to trap them somehow. I don't know if some kind of electrical wire like a heron thing would do any good. A liner that big is expensive (that's the size I used up here). Did you try an internet search?

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 2:23PM
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It is fairly expensive. I used roofing EPDM, and will again. Heck of a job, though.

Yes, I've searched the 'net quite a bit. I'm hoping live trapping and relocating is legal here; I'm terribly soft for critters. I did find a site that says it's illegal here to disturb muskrat dens! I sure hope that doesn't include illegal dens in artificial water features.

I also remember years ago we had a member who had them burrowing under her waterfall liner. That's how I knew to look there, after I caught a glimpse of what had to be a muskrat. I remember this person had an awful lot of damage, as do I. It's no longer just under the waterfall, though the biggest hole is there. As the water level goes down, they dig lower holes, their aim being to have an underwater entrance. Kind of self-defeating, in a liner pond!

I just hope there aren't tiny young in the burrows, that would starve if the mother is trapped. But there's no way I'll be able to rebuild with them hanging around my yard.

That bite must have been traumatic for your brother, Jalal. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 3:13PM
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Personally I would not try to live catch them. Since I am in the pond business I would like everyone to catch and release them because they do an awful lot of damage to ponds. In just two ponds this last winter/spring they did over 20K in damage. And that was repairing the liners and not replacing them. If we had replaced the liner in both of these ponds that would have been somewhere between 75 to 100K. One pond we repaired 38 holes in the liner and the other we had to seam in a 20 x 10 ft piece liner into the old liner. The first pond the homeowner was going to catch and relocate the muskrat after we repaired 7 holes and about $1000.00 worth of damage. Three days later I got a call that the pond started leaking again. I went out there and found 5 more holes without hardly even looking. That is when the homeowner decided that this muskrat was going to cost him a lot of money and he hired a professional trapper to get the muskrat. A few days later the trapper did snare trap the muskrat and then we could start looking for the other 31 holes. A lot of money later the pond was fixed. The other pond was in some ways worse and in some ways better. Last winter the homeowner had a mink coming to the pond and taking almost all their koi but no muskrat as the mink would have killed the muskrat. Late winter or early spring the muskrat moved in and killed the 30 water lilies that were in the pond. We fixed 3 smaller holes that the large one was about a foot in diameter and then there was where the muskrat had built it's den. There was probably 40 to 50 holes and tunnels in the liner in one area where we had to splice a new piece of liner in. Total cost was 9K and that does not include cleaning the pond of all the dirt on the bottom. We are not talking a little dirt but yards of dirt.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 6:08PM
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Um, so Mike, this is why you would like everyone to catch and release them? I suspect you meant to say something more lethal.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 6:14PM
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Oh, I get it, the little buggers make you money hand-over-fist.

Tell me some more about splice repairing. I was going to try that, but now the main hole is nearly to the bottom of the pond. I'd really hate for one of my splices to give out mid-winter.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 6:17PM
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I think it might be a good idea to start a muskrat school and train them how to do the most damage possible.(lol)I don't want to scare some ponders about muskrats. I have been in ponding for over 20 years and have seen well over a 1000 ponds and have talked more than that in people that own ponds. In that time I have only seen or heard of 5 ponds that have had problems with muskrats. Three of those ponds were in this last year.

As far as splicing in a new piece of liner it is done just the same way that two pieces of liner are seamed together. If you go on the Firestone specialty products website and look at seaming liner. Yes we had to splice this new liner all the way to the bottom of the pond. Then we had to set the rocks back on this splice and I am not talking small rocks. Ten of them were 2 to 4 tons each. The splice will be just about as strong as the original liner if done right but not easy. It took three of us just about 8 hours just to seam this piece in place.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 8:09PM
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*IF* done right. Hm. If you had never done one before, would you trust the depths of your pond to it? The materials are certainly less expensive. I have purchased a gallon of adhesive and a roller, but I'm sure the roofing store will take it back when I buy a roll of EPDM. They seemed confident I could make a good seal as long as I got the rubber good and clean. But the instructions on the can say to use So-&-So in-seam sealant, which I would have to go back for if they even carry it. I also would have to partially disassemble my waterfall to free the edge of the pond liner for patching. I won't have to do that if I put in a new liner.

So here's what I'm currently thinking. The person I talked to at the NH Fish & Game transferred me to the Wildlife Services dept. of our USDA office. That person said that muskrats have a reputation for being hard to live-trap, but didn't completely discourage me from trying. She did seem to think that a dry pond, which mine pretty much is at the moment, would be a real discouragement to them, as would lots of activity around it. My fish will be OK in the kiddie pool for a while, and I have all fall to take care of things. So I'm thinking I'll make my pond inhospitable in as many ways as possible. I still have mud (yeah, yards of it) on the floor of the pond, and I can dry up the water but leave enough mud so that I can monitor muskrat activity. If I can't get it muskrat-free in a couple weeks I'll try trapping. Once I'm getting no footprints I'll replace the liner, then quickly as possible mortar in rocks all over it.

My reasoning is, even if I kill the muskrat(s) causing the damage, the likelihood that this will happen again when a new muskrat comes along is very high. My whole neighborhood is bottom land, and a seasonal stream which passes through my yard connects to swamps, ponds, and streams in all my neighbors' yards. I suppose I was foolish not to foresee this, but I don't intend to let it happen again.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 9:46PM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Sometimes I wonder about how we humans impact the wild world. It is a certainty they affect us. I had a muskrat visitor a few years ago when the University was busy ripping apart one of the few undeveloped areas close to us for dorms. That was when I was still sitting by the pond at night. He was quite a showman.

He spent quite a while swimming laps and preening. I am sure he knew I was there since he watched me for a long time before he went into the water. Often he was only a few feet away from me. I was glad he didn't stay. I had seen the damage they can do to a shoreline when we lived in an area that depended on its lakes and streams for much of it's revenue. The lake shore owners set underwater traps for them which I found distressing but I couldn't deny the damages they did.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2010 at 1:01PM
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Sharon Greenacre,

It sounds like you are thinking about joining these two pieces of liner like it is a roof. I don't think that it will work like you think it will. Normally a roof is not under much water or any water. It is meant to shed water. You need to treat this like a pond liner because that is what it is. You will need Firestone primer, seam tape and a cleaning solvent. I would not use any other primer then Firestone's. Firestone's is patented and works far better then any other product that I have seen or used. I use charcoal lighter fluid as a cleaning solvent. It will help greatly if you can get a board under the area being seamed. A good roller will also help. I use a silicone roller that cost about $50.00 but I have also used a wallpaper roller. It will probably take more then one person but it can be done by one person but not easily. I suggest that you go to the Firestone website to learn how it is done.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2010 at 6:46PM
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Thanks again for the suggestions, folks. Mike, I copped out and decided to put in a new liner.

Regarding the muskrat/s, all gone. The absence of water was all it took, actually. With the help of good friend MaryO, I got the dirt stuffed back in the tunnels. We actually discovered there was a fairly extensive tunnel running just under the liner along one side, with at least one exit external to the pond. It looked kind of like an ant farm once we sliced the liner to fill it in. Mary found an old apple from our apple tree in the tunnel, where it had apparently been saved for later snacking. I wish I'd thought to take a picture.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2010 at 10:30PM
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Well the muskrats continue to be busy around here. In the last week two more ponds have had problems with them. Luckily this time of the year they don't do nearly the damage they do in the late fall or winter. But I don't think I have heard the last of them yet.
On a different note we have had a pair of bald eagles nesting about a mile from my house. I have seen them flying over several times during the summer. But getting to the point of the story. I was talking to a person who took a lot of pictures of these birds and of them bringing food back for the young. In one of those pictures they were bringing a koi back as food for the young.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2010 at 10:42PM
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Oh, boy, move over blue heron! A new avia non grata enters the scene! The bald eagle may be a regal symbol of our nation, but it does live on fish.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2010 at 11:48PM
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