California Muskrat Trapping Seasons, Laws, and Hunting Locations

Here, we fetch up laws, locations, and California muskrat trapping seasons. See our pages for general trapping laws and muskrat hunting.

Topics

California muskrat hunting seasons.
California muskrat hunting seasons, laws, and locations.
    1. Seasons.
    2. Bag limits.
    3. Shooting / trapping hours.
    4. Hunting methods.
    5. Hunting and trapping licenses.
    6. Hunting areas.
    7. Trapping.
    8. Hunting forum.
    9. Buying and selling.
    10. Import and transport.
    11. Live Muskrat.
    12. Violations.
    13. Regulations.

Hunting Laws for California Muskrat Trapping

For California muskrat trapping, there are hunting laws just for muskrat (e.g. seasons, bag limits, and possession limits). Muskrat are more broadly regulated as MammalsFurbearing Mammals, and Wild Animals. The law also refers to them as as “furbearers” and “fur-bearing mammals.” See FGC § 4000.

Hunting laws for muskrat are mostly found in the California Fish and Game Code (“FGC”) and Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations (“14 CCR”).  You can link to current regulations from the Fish and Game Commission’s webpage.  Warning shot!!! When on public lands, like Wildlife Areas, there may be area-specific rules that may further restrict muskrat trapping.

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Hunting and Trapping Licenses

For California muskrat trapping, you need a hunting license and/or trapping license from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (“CDFW”). There are also licenses for disabled hunters and junior huntersWarning shot!!! You have to have your license with you while hunting. 14 CCR § 770(b).

Hunting License

To hunt muskrat in California, you have to have a valid Hunting License from the CDFW. Hunting licenses are available to residents and nonresident, who are at least 18 years old. See FGC § 3031(a)(1) and (3).

Junior Hunting License

If you’re under the age of 18 on July 1, you qualify for Junior Hunting License. If you’re 16 or 17 years old, you can hunt alone on State Wildlife Areas but can’t supervise anyone under the age 16. See FGC § 3031(a)(2) and our page for Juniors.

Trapping License

To trap muskrat, and all other Furbearing Mammals or Nongame Mammals, you also need a Trapping License (see below).

Disabled Hunters

If you’re a disabled and want to hunt muskrat, you can apply for a Recovering Service Member Hunting LicenseDisabled Veteran Hunting License, or Mobility Impaired Disabled Persons Motor Vehicle License.

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Hunting and Trapping Seasons

The seasons for hunting and trapping muskrat in California are from November 16 through Mar 31, 2017, statewide.  However, you might be able to kill them any time of the year if they are causing property damage.  See 14 CCR § 462 [supersedes FGC § 4001].

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Daily Bag and Possession Limits

There is no Daily Bag Limit or Possession Limit for hunting or trapping muskrat in California. See 14 CCR § 462 [supersedes FGC § 4001].

Warning shot!!!  If you legally injure or trap a muskrat in California, you have to kill it immediately. See 14 CCR § 251.5(c).

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Live Muskrat

If you want to import, transport, or possess a live muskrat, you have to get a permit from the CDFW for all species except Ondatra zibethica. If you keep it at a permanent facility, you have to meet the minimum facility and caging standards.  There are also requirements for the gnawing materials, pool, floor space, nesting box, comparable adults, etc. Warning shot!!! There may be additional requirements by your city and county. See FGC § 2250 and 14 CCR § 671(c)(2)(J)(1)(a) and 14 CCR § 671.3(a) and (i).

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Methods of Take

California muskrat trapping laws
California muskrat trapping and other methods of take.

In this section, you’ll find info about methods of hunting and trapping during the California muskrat trapping. In general, furbearing mammals, including muskrat, may only be taken with a “trap, a firearm, bow and arrow, poison under a proper permit, or with the use of dogs.” See FGC § 4002. However, additional rules and restrictions related to: airplanesarchery, boatscapturecontestscrossbowsdogsfirearmsharassmentherding & drivinginfraredlights, motorized vehiclespoisonproperty damagesnowmobiles, and traps.

Archery

Archery for California muskrat trapping.
California muskrat trapping and archery.

In general, you can hunt furbearing mammals, including muskrat, with a Bow and Arrow.  Any type of arrow can be used except arrows with (1) lighted nocks with a beam of light, (2) an explosive head, (3) tranquilizers, or (4) poison. The same is true for migratory game birds, resident small game, and nongame mammals and birds.

Warning shots!!!

    1. Don’t shoot from or across any highway, road, or place open to the pubic for vehicles.
    2. Your bow must be capable of casting a legal arrow at least 130 yards.
    3. In general, you’re not allowed to have a firearm during archery season or with an archery-only tag (the only exception is with a Disabled Archer’s Permit).
    4. Don’t put a bow in your vehicle if it’s nocked or the end

See FGC § 400214 CCR § 465, and 14 CCR § 354. Also see and our summary of archery-specific regulations and Crossbows.

Boats

See Motorized Vehicles below.

Capture

In general, it’s illegal to capture and confine furbearing mammals, including muskrat, taken from the wild.  There are limited exceptions for injured or diseased animals. See FGC § 3005.5

Contests

It’s illegal to offer a reward for killing furbearing mammals, including muskrat, in an individual contest, tournament, or derby. This rule is an exception to the general rule that those events are allowed for most game birds, fish, reptiles, or amphibians, so long as you have a permit from the CDFW or if the reward is less than $500. See FGC § 2003 and 14 CCR § 465(b) [illegal for furbearing mammals].

Crossbows

Crossbows for California muskrat trapping.
California muskrat trapping and crossbows.

In general, you can hunt furbearing mammals, including muskrat, with a Crossbow, which is a type of “firearm.” Any type of crossbow bolt can be used except crossbow bolts with (1) lighted nocks with a beam of light, (2) an explosive head, (3) tranquilizers, or (4) poison. The same is true for migratory game birds, resident small game, and nongame mammals and birds.

Warning shots!!!

    1. Don’t shoot from or across any highway, road, or place open to the pubic for vehicles.
    2. Your crossbow must be capable of casting a legal arrow at least 130 yards.
    3. In general, you’re not allowed to have a firearm during archery season or with an archery-only tag (the only exception is with a Disabled Archer’s Permit).
    4. Don’t put a crossbow in your vehicle if it’s nocked or the end of an arrow is fit to the notch.

See FGC § 400214 CCR § 465, and 14 CCR § 354. Also see and our summary of archery-specific regulations.

Dogs for Hunting and Training

Hunting dogs during the California muskrat trapping
California muskrat trapping and hound dogs.

In general, you can use dogs to hunt and trap furbearing mammals, including muskrat, during the California muskrat trapping. You can also use them to train your dog. Warning shot!!!  This rule does not apply in areas closed to dogs. However, there are several restrictions you should read about. Link to our page for Dog Hunting Laws, and see FGC § 400214 CCR § 465, and 14 CCR § 265.

Firearms

Firearms for the California muskrat trapping
California muskrat trapping and firearms.

In general, firearms are allowed for hunting furbearing mammals, including muskrat, during the California muskrat trapping. Warning shot!!! As of July 1, 2015, you can only use nontoxic ammo. on Wildlife Areas and Ecological Reserves. As of July 1, 2016, you can only use nontoxic ammo for furbearing and nongame mammals. See FGC § 400214 CCR § 250.1(d), and 14 CCR § 465.

Harassment

In general, it’s illegal to Harass furbearing mammals, including muskrat. See 14 CCR § 251.1.

Herding & Driving

In general, it’s illegal to herd or drive furbearing mammals, including muskrat. The only exceptions are for landowners and tenants preventing damage to private or public property, including aquaculture and agriculture crops. See FGC § 3003.5 and 14 CCR § 251.1 and Motor Vehicles below.

Infrared & Night-Vision

In general, you cannot use night vision equipment to hunt in California, including muskrat. Examples include infra red, plus binos and scope with light amplifying circuits. See FGC § 2005(c).

Lights

In general, you can use lights to hunt furbearing and nongame mammals, including muskrat, but it depends on your location.

Zones 1 and 2

In general, you can the Zone 1 and Zone 2, you can use lights of any size or voltage, and use a spotlight from your vehicle. However, several exceptions to the general rule are listed below.

    1. You can’t use lights during the general deer season.
    2. You can’t use lights from a moving vehicle or with the motor on.
    3. You can’t use lights from a public road or highway.

See 14 CCR § 264 for zone descriptions.

Balance of State

Outside of Zone 1 and Zone two, you can still use lights but only if you satisfy the conditions listed below.

    1. The batteries have to be 9 volts or less (hand-held and headlights are okay),
    2. You have to be on foot,
    3. You cannot use them from a vehicle, and
    4. They can’t be powered from any other source.

See 14 CCR § 264.5. NOTE:  There are conflicting laws about whether you can use lights to hunt furbearing mammals, where you can use lights, and what kinds you can use. FGC § 2005(b) and (d) allows lights, while in possession of a firearm, in any area where furbearing and nongame mammals are commonly found.  It also says you can’t use (1) lamps or lanterns that cast a directional beam of light, (2) vehicle headlights, or (3) anything larger than a two-cell, three-volt flashlight (which can’t be attached to a weapon)

There is another exception when muskrat are causing Property Damage (see below).

Motor Vehicles

In general, it’s illegal to:

“[T]o pursue, drive, or herd any bird or mammal with any motorized water, land, or air vehicle, including, but not limited to, a motor vehicle, airplane, powerboat, or snowmobile…”

The only exceptions are (1) with a permit from the CDFW, (2) landowners and tenants trying to prevent property damage, and (3) during agricultural practices. See FGC § 3003.5.

Poison Permit

In general, a poison permit from the CDFW is required to take furbearing mammals, including muskrat. The application must indicate the kind of poison that you want to use and the time and place you plan to use them. See FGC § 4002FGC § 4003, and 14 CCR § 465.

Property Damage

Property Damage

In general, landowners and tenants can kill muskrats that are damaging or threatening to damage growing crops and other property. If you don’t want to kill it, personnel from the Department of Food & Agriculture can kill them for you. The same is true for nongame mammals, black-tailed jackrabbits, fox squirrels, and red foxes (except the notice Sierra Nevada red fox).

See FGC § 4002 [authorized methods of take], FGC § 4152(a)FGC § 4180FGC § 3005(a) and (d) [exemption from restriction on using a net, pound, cage, trap, set line or wire, or poisonous substance for furbearing mammals, nongame birds and mammals, and mammals causing property damage].

Hunt Time

In general, you can kill them any time, day or night. See FGC § 4152(a) and FGC § 4180.

Hunting Method

In general, you can kill them in any legal manner, including artificial lights, night-vision equipment. See FGC § 2005(d)(3). However, there are a few trap restrictions (see below). See FGC § 4004(g)FGC § 4180, and FGC § 4152(a).

Hunting & Trapping License

You don’t need a hunting license or trapping license.  You can have someone else kill them if you give them written permission. If you hire a trapping service, they have to have a license to kill them.  See FGC § 4152(a)FGC § 3007  [license exemption], and FGC § 4005(c) [trapping license exemption].

Permit

A “depredation permit” does NOT appear to be required for killing muskrat that are causing property damage. For more information, see our page for California Depredation Permits.

Traps in General

In general, you can use traps to kill muskrats. The traps have to be numbered or identified as specified by the CDFW. The trap must be checked by you or the trapper every day.  Animals must be removed immediately. See FGC § 4004(c) and (d) [exempting from standard trap identification requirements], FGC § 4152(a) and (b), and FGC § 4180.

Conibear Traps

See the subsection for Trapping: Conibear Traps below.

Body-Gripping Traps

Typically, you cannot use body-gripping traps when trapping furbearing and nongame mammals for recreation or commerce.  However, you can use them to trap muskrats that are damaging your crops or other property. See FGC § 3003.1(a) [body-gripping trap exemption] and FGC § 4152.

Steel-Jawed Leg Hold Traps

In general, no one is allowed to use steel-jawed leg hold traps.  However, there is one limited exception for designated government officials to protect human health and safety.  The same is true for game, furbearing, and nongame mammals, as well as cats and dogs.  See FGC § 3003.1(c) and See FGC § 4152.

Traps With Saw-Toothed or Spiked Jaws

It’s illegal to use any trap with saw-toothed or spiked jaws. See FGC § 4004(a).

Raw Furs

When muskrats are killed this way, no one is allowed to buy, sell, or barter the “raw furs.” The same is true for all other furbearing and nongame mammals. See FGC § 3003.1(b), FGC § 4004(c)FGC § 4152(a), and FGC § 4180.

Snowmobiles

See Motorized Vehicles below.

Traps

See “Trapping” below.

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Trapping

In general, trapping is allowed for Nongame Mammals and Furbearing Mammals, includes muskrat. See FGC § 4002 and 14 CCR § 465. In this section, you’ll find info about:

California muskrat trapping laws.
California muskrat trapping info.
    1. Trapping license.
    2. Legal traps.
    3. Conibear traps.
    4. Body-gripping taps.
    5. Trap identification.
    6. Trap placement.
    7. Trap checking.
    8. Animal removal.
    9. Reports.

Trapping License

trapping license from the CDFW is required for trapping nongame mammals and furbearing mammals, including muskrat.  To get the license, you have to pass a test.  It’s available to residents and most nonresidents of California. There is a reduced fee for Juniors, who are youth under the age of 16.

The license is good from July 1 through June 30. To renew a license, you’ll have to submit a sworn statement to the CDFW showing how many you took during the previous year. The license authorizes the holder to trap and sell the raw fur.

Warning shot!!! In general, it’s illegal to remove or disturb someone else’s trap. The only exceptions are if the trap isn’t licensed, isn’t being used, the person doesn’t have permission to be there, or it’s being removed by a CDFW employee doing official business.

See FGC § 4005FGC § 4006FGC § 4007FGC § 4008, and FGC § 4009.

Cage traps, box traps, nets, suitcase-style live muskrat traps, and common rat and mouse traps may be used for recreation or commerce. Conibear traps and snares may also be used to prevent property damage, so long as they comply with the other requirements identified below (trap identification, placement, checking reporting, etc.) See FGC § 3003.1 and 14 CCR § 465.5(c) and (g), and the subsection for Trapping: Conibear Traps below.

Illegal Body-Gripping Traps

Body-gripping traps are almost always illegal.  They include traps that grip the mammal’s body or body part. Examples are listed below

    1. Steel-jawed leghold traps.
    2. Saw-toothed traps.
    3. Spike-jaw traps.
    4. Padded-jaw leghold traps.
    5. Conibear traps.
    6. Snares.

Steel-jawed, leg hold traps are only allowed in extraordinary circumstances in order to protect human health and safety. Even then, only certain government employees can use them. Warning shot!!! It’s illegal to buy, sell, or barter raw fur from animals taken with body-gripping traps. See FGC § 3003.1FGC § 4004(a) and (b), and 14 CCR § 465.5(c) and (d)

Conibear Traps

In general, conibear traps are illegal for the purpose of recreational and commercial trapping of Furbearing and Nongame mammals. Subject to location, placement, and size restrictions, they might be allowed by landowners and tenants with a depredation permit for the purpose of protecting property. See FGC § 3003.1(a)14 CCR § 465.5(c) and California Depredation Permits.

Zones Closed To Conibear Traps

There are geographical zones were Conibear traps and snares are prohibited unless they are completely submerged. See 14 CCR § 465.5(g)(5) for a description.

Larger Than 6 x 6 Inches

If the jaw opens more than 6 by 6 inches, conibear traps must be partially or wholly submerged in water. See FGC § 4004(e).

Less Than 10 x 10 Inches

With a depredation permit, landowners and tenants might be allowed by the CDFW to use conibear traps with jaws that open up to 10 x 10 inches. Warning shots!!! If so, you can’t set the trap within 150 yards of permanent or temporary structure that could be used as a residence. (Unless you control the property or have the landowner’s written permission.) If the jaws are larger than 8″x8″, the trap must be at least partially submerged in water unless the trap is within the areas listed below.

    1. 100 feet of permanent water.
    2. 100 feet of seasonally flooded marshes, pastures, agricultural lands or floodways when standing or running water is present.
    3. The riparian vegetation zone when found where the take of beaver is permitted (e.g. willow, cottonwood, sycamore, salt cedar, cattail, bulrush and rushes.

In two geographical zones, conibear traps must be completely submerged. (See FGC § 4004(g)(5) for a description.) You or your designee have to check the trap at least one a day and immediately remove any animals. (Your designee must carry a permission slip.) You cannot use them for recreation or commerce. You cannot buy, sell, or barter the raw fur, which includes salted furs and pelts. If legally trapped, you either have to kill or release it immediately. If killed, it must be shot unless it’s unsafe, illegal, or unalloyed by the landowner. (If you don’t want to kill it, certain government officials are allowed to euthanize the animal). See FGC § 4004(e) and 14 CCR § 465.5(g)(4) and (5)

Public Land

If the conibear trap is used on land open to the public, you have to put a sign at every entrance and exit to the property.  You have to put at least four signs within 50 feet of the trap, on the north, south, east, and west boundaries. There must be a warning on the signs. The letters have to be at least three inches. At minimum, the sign must say, “Danger! Traps Set For Wildlife. Keep Out.” You have to check on the signs every day. See FGC § 4004(e) and (f).

Trapped Animals

In general, trapped mammals cannot be killed by intentional drowning, chemical injection, or chest crushing. However, there is an exception for legally set conibear traps for muskrat and beaver, and colony traps for muskrat. See FGC § 4004(b).

Trap Identification

When traps are legal, you have to use traps numbers registered with the CDFW. It must be clearly stamped on the trap or on a metal tag attached anywhere on the trap. See FGC § 4004(c) and 14 CCR § 465.5(f)(1).

Trap Placement

In general, traps are not allowed within 150 yard of a place where someone lives, even temporarily. The only way you can do it is if it’s your property or you have the owner’s written consent. See 14 CCR § 465.5(g)(3) and “Conibear Traps” below.

Trap Checking

When traps are legal, you have to check it every day. If you’re not the one checking the trap, the person must carry written statement from you that’s it’s okay for him or her to check your traps. See FGC § 4004(d) and 14 CCR § 465.5(g)(2).

Animal Removal

If there’s something in the trap, it must be killed or released immediately. Warning shots!!!  Only kill it in an area where it is allowed under local laws and by the landowner, and where it can be done safely. Except for beaver and muskrat, you’re allowed to kill furbearers using the methods listed below.

    1. Intentional drowning.
    2. Injection with any chemical not sold for the purpose of euthanizing animals.
    3. Thoracic compression, commonly known as chest crushing (except for tapping beaver and muskrat with conibear traps).

See FGC § 4004(d) and (g) and 14 CCR § 465.5(g)(1) and (2).

Reports

If you have a trappers license, you have to file a report with the CDFW.  The report includes a sworn statement of how many furbearing and nongame mammals you killed, where you killed them, and the name and mailing address of who you sold them to, if any. The report is due by July 1st.

If you don’t report, the CDFW can suspend your tappers’ license and deny your application for renewal. If you need help with this, contact our attorney for a free consultation. See 14 CCR § 467.

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Shooting / Trapping hours

In general, furbearing mammals, including muskrat, can be hunted and trapped at any hour of the day or night.

Areas Closed to Night Hunting

One exception is that night hunting (one-half hour after sunset until one-half hour before sunrise) is not allowed in the zones closed to night hunting. See 14 CCR § 474 for a legal description of those areas. See 14 CCR § 466 and our custom map (rough draft).

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Purchase and Sale

In general, it’s illegal to buy or sell birds or mammals taken from the wild. There’s an exception for nongame and furbearing mammals, which includes muskrat trapped during the California muskrat trapping seasons.  You can buy and sell handcrafted items made from the muskrat, including the carcass. See FGC § 3039(b).

If you killed the muskrat with a trapping license, you can also sell the raw fur.  If you’re in the business of buying, selling, trading, or dealing raw fur, you’ll need a dealer license. If you’re a domesticated breeder, you don’t need a dealer license. See summary for Buying and Selling Birds and Mammals; andFGC §§ 403040344036, and 4042.

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Import & Transportation

In general, it’s illegal to import, transport, or possess live muskrat. However, you can apply for a permit from the CDFW. Permits may also be required from your city and county. See 14 CCR § 671(c)(2)(J).

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Violations

If you get charged with a potential hunting violation, we’re here to help. Contact our attorney for a free consultation.

If you get convicted of a hunting violation, you could loose your trapping license.  You wouldn’t be able to trap any furbearing or nongame mammals for up to three years. In fact, it would be illegal to even apply for a trapping license during that time. FGC § 12156.

If you misuse lights during the California muskrat trapping, you could be arrested by a peace office. See FGC § 12156 and FGC § 2005(e).

If you break a trapping law, you could be fined up to $2,000 and go to jail for up to one year. See 14 CCR § 465.5(h)

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Hunting Areas

Click here for public hunting areas. Some areas, like lakes managed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), allow hunting for all species, including muskrat.  Other locations, like “Type A” and “Type B” Wildlife Areas, only allow it when expressly authorized. See 36 CFR § 327.8(b).

Type C Wildlife Areas

Hunting and trapping for muskrats is specially allowed on all “Type C” Wildlife Areas. Warning shots!!!  Make sure you follow all the rules for California muskrat trapping and any special rules at the wildlife area, like closures and firearm restrictions. See FGC § 10500 [generally not allowed]14 CCR § 550(ee)14 CCR § 551(o)14 CCR § 551(r), and CDFW’s trapping law handout.

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Muskrat Trapping Forum

To participate in our forum for the California muskrat trapping, just leave a question or comment below.


While we try to fetch up all laws, locations, and California muskrat trapping seasons, we might miss a few or make a typo. If so, please leave a comment or question in the reply box below

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