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Trapper's Manual

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Information on Nebraska Furbearer Species

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TRAPPING MUSKRATS

They are among the easiest furbearers to trap and the simplest to pelt and handle. Their presence is usually pretty obvious - houses in a marsh; bank burrows along streams or ponds; tracks; trails; slides; droppings; floating pieces of cut vegetation, and feeding platforms.

Trap sizes No. I and No. 1 1/2 are best. If water is too shallow for drowning, either the "Stop-Loss" or the 110 Conibear must be used. If not killed quickly, drowned, or caught in a "Stop-Loss" trap some muskrats will escape. When this happens, it is neither humane nor profitable and is a waste of the resource. If for some reason a muskrat has not drowned in the trap, pick it up by its tail. Then pick up the trap. Otherwise, the rat may pull out of the trap.

Drowning sets involve anchoring the chain in deep water in combination with a "tangle" stake. See the illustrated muskrat sets. The trap chain may have to be lengthened with chain or wire to allow the trapped animal to reach water deep enough to drown. Raccoons may occasionally be taken in some rat sets, and the wire and anchor stake should be heavy enough to hold a "coon".

MUSKRAT SETS

Muskrat Sets The most common open water sets are in the runs, at den entrances, and at the base of slides where the muskrat leaves and enters the water. In the latter case, the trap should be set in line with the slide under two or three inches of water and set firmly on the bottom. When the long spring trap is used, the end of the spring should be rotated toward the trigger mechanism so the jaws will lie flat. The chain should be anchored in deep water with a tangle stake near enough to allow the diving rat to wrap the chain around the stake.

When using 110's in long runs, additional traps may be set in the run at three to four-foot intervals. During open water trapping on marshes, muskrat sets (in addition to run and den entrance sets) can be made on feeding platforms and edges of houses. Traps should be placed in one to three inches of water and staked as far from the platform or house as possible to ensure drowning.



TRAPPING UNDER THE ICE

After freeze-up, muskrats can still be trapped in their runs, as long as the water isn't frozen all the way to the bottom. A string of bubbles frozen into the ice can often pinpoint the location of a run. Placing a trap will require chopping through the ice. In areas where muskrats are plentiful, a board set can be effective under the ice. Use a six-inch wide board that's long enough to stick in the bottom mud and extend through a hole chopped in the ice. The board may be slanted or straight up and down, with either a small platform or a cleat to hold the trap. Bait is placed on the board above the trap but under the water. Anchor the chain to the board below the trap.

In some situations the colony or multiple catch trap can be used. Several rats can be caught without resetting the trap. However, the trap must be completely submerged to make sure the animals will drown quickly. This trap is set in runs or bank den entrances. The swinging door on the end allows the rats to enter but will not swing outward.


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