Muskrats are widely trapped for their durable fur, which is prized for the manufacture of warm, fashionable coats and other garments. Where muskrats are abundant, trapping can have a significant economic impact, providing important employment for people living in rural environments. Millions of muskrats are trapped each year, and muskrats are one of the economically most important wild fur-bearing animals in North America. The best furs are obtained during winter, when the pelts are in prime condition. Some rural people also eat muskrats.
Muskrats are sometimes considered to be important pests, especially when they burrow into earthen dams, dikes, irrigation channels, and other structures. The burrows of muskrats weaken these constructed works, and can cause them to fail or erode. Muskrats are also regarded as pests in parts of their introduced range in Europe, where they are not well controlled by natural predators or disease.
The muskrat was introduced to Europe by Prince Colloredo-Mannsfield, who released five individuals in a pond on his estate near Prague, now in the Czech Republic, following a hunting expedition to Alaska. It is likely that all of the millions of muskrats in Europe and northern Asia are the descendants of these animals, which are actively controlled to decrease the damage they cause.