8 Rodents in Tennessee: How to Identify and Control Them

aerial view of tennessee with mouse image over it

Southern charm usually warms your heart, but it’s tough to smile when rodents like rats and mice sneak into your house. These little guys can wiggle through small gaps, chew on wires, and might even make you sick. Each kind of rodent is a different problem, so they need specific tricks to get rid of them. So, let’s take a closer look at how to identify and control rodents in Tennessee. 

Apart from rats and mice causing trouble indoors – be on the lookout for other critters. You’ve got voles messing with your garden, squirrels in the attic, chipmunks chowing down on bird seed – it’s a whole bunch. By water spots? Watch for muskrats. And if you’re near West Tennessee, nutria might be snacking on crops.

To keep these rodents at bay, start by closing up any gaps where they might slip in. Set some traps around, or call in an exterminator if things get too wild. It’s better to deal with these critters early before you have a bigger problem.

Mice (Mus musculus)

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You’ve probably heard people say, “When the cat’s away, the mice will play.” Well, it looks like they’re right. When you’re away or fast asleep, those little mice just make themselves at home. They’ll snack on nuts, grains, or seeds they find for dinner. And as for dessert? Besides chocolate, mice don’t mind nibbling on your furniture or wall insulation.

Mice Identification in Tennessee

So let’s say you come across a small grey or brown furball about five to eight inches long enjoying some leftovers on your kitchen floor or having a go at your dining table’s edges – that’s most likely a mouse. And heads up – these critters often come in groups, so if there’s one, there might be more.

Three types of mischievous mice are common in Tennessee: 

  • House Mice (Mus musculus): These fellas can adapt to various environments, yet they particularly favor residential places. Be it your garage or attic, house mice are quite comfortable everywhere. They sport a small body with light-brown to black fur and tend to nibble on whatever they find, including your pantry food.
  • Deer Mice (Peromyscus maniculatus): Country lovers at heart, deer mice wear gray to reddish-brown fur with white bellies. They make nests in nature but will cozy up in your house if the weather gets rough or food runs low. Their tails are bilocolored, dark on top and light on the bottom. 

You can spot two kinds of these creatures in Tennessee. The short-tailed ones (P. m. bardii) enjoy the fields and fences in West Tennessee, while the long-tailed friends (P. m. nubiterrae) prefer the East Tennessee’s woods.

  • Cotton Deer Mice (Peromyscus gossypinus): Known as the largest from the Peromyscus group in Tennessee, cotton deer mice thrive in moist woodlands. They look rather similar to their smaller deer mouse counterparts – covered in thick fur that ranges from brownish-gray to russet-brown with a cream or white underside.

Feeling mixed up about spotting mice? Here’s our quick and easy rundown on what mice look like, so you’ll never mistake them for their rodent cousins again.

General Characteristics: House vs. Deer Mouse 

CharacteristicHouse MouseDeer Mouse
SizeAbout 5 to 7 inches from nose to tailSlightly longer, about 6 to 8 inches, including the tail
Aspect Uniform dusty gray furTwo-tone outfit with a brown back and a whitish belly
HabitatAdaptable, prefers human dwellings for food, water, and warmthPrefers natural habitats like logs, piles of debris, forests, and fields
RegionFound statewide both in urban and rural areasMore common in rural and less disturbed areas, partially in the countryside
BehaviorNocturnal but may show sporadic daytime activity

Telltale Signs of Mice

If your quiet night gets disturbed by the scurrying or scratching in the walls, chances are you’ve got a mouse hiding out. Some telltale signs include:

  • Tiny droppings shaped like dark grains of rice; (Here is our guide on What Do Mouse Droppings Look Like?)
  • Mysterious gnaw marks around food packages or wires; 
  • Odd pet behavior (cats or dogs fixating on certain spots); 
  • You might even stumble upon nests made with shredded paper or fabric tucked away in cozy house corners.

Mouse Preventative Tips

sealing holes with silicon after ac insulation
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Unfortunately, mice come with all the audacity of a tiny invader and zero respect for personal space. Here’s what you can do to push back:

  • Seal any gaps leading indoors (as tiny as a quarter of an inch) – with caulk or steel wool; 
  • Keep food in chew-proof containers made of glass or metal; 
  • Clean up crumbs and spills right after they happen to remove temptation;
  • Get rid of clutter where mice can nest, like piles of clothes or magazines;

Check out our easy guide on using steel wool to block those pesky mouse and rat holes. You’ll have them sealed up in no time.

Mouse Trapping Tips

Are mice already making themselves comfy in your place? Time to become a master strategist in the great mouse eviction. Remember, if you are dealing with a larger infestation, skip the DIY rodent rodeo and call a professional exterminator. 

Here are your basic trapping tactics suited for a minor mouse menagerie:

  • Opt for mouse-specific traps, be they snap ones or kinder, live-catch varieties. With a range of brands out there, select the best mouse trap that fits your needs. Prioritize reliability, easy setup, and safety for children and pets.
  • Peanut butter or a bit of chocolate usually does the trick to lure them in. If that doesn’t cut it, remember that the best bait for mouse traps will depend on the specific type of mouse you’re dealing with. Some might prefer bacon, while others favor grains or nuts. Experiment until you find a bait that works.
  • Set traps along walls where mice scurry since they prefer not to dash across open spaces;
  • Check traps regularly and relocate or dispose of captured critters properly.

*Note: These are only some guidelines to give you a head start. Read our full guide on How to Get Rid of Mice in Your Home and find the best ways to outsmart these agile adversaries.

Rats (Rattus)

rat in a house
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If mice cause a bit of queasy, wait till you meet their bigger and bolder brothers, the rats. Some of the most common rodents encountered in Tennessee, rats are notorious for their sharp teeth and destructive tendency to gnaw on stuff relentlessly. 

Rats Identification in Tennessee

So, what makes a rat a rat, you might ask? Check out their size for starters – they’re much larger than an average mouse. You’ll often find rats scurrying around and squeaking up a storm in less-than-ideal places like sewers, garbage dumps, or dark alleys. 

In the “Volunteer State”, two unsavory characters worth mentioning are the brown and roof rat:

  • Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus): Also known as the Norway rat or sewer rat, this critter is a recognized troublemaker. These pests have a robust build and are medium-sized with grayish-brown fur sprinkled with black hair. They sport a long snout, small eyes, modestly sized ears, and a scaly naked tail that’s shorter than their body length. You can often spot them in urban areas lurking around residential settlements. 
  • Roof Rat (Rattus rattus): You might confuse these for brown rats due to their similarity but look closely, and you’ll notice some differences. Roof rats are slightly more slender and tend to be blackish in coloration with larger ears and longer tails. Also referred to as black rats, they have a penchant for high places. These guys can often be seen scampering across rooftops or hanging out in trees. 

We know identifying rats within the vast rodent family can be tricky. They often blend in with similar-looking critters. But don’t worry – with some practice you’ll soon master recognizing what rats look like.

General Characteristics: Brown vs. Roof Rat 

CharacteristicBrown RatRoof Rat
SizeBody up to 11 in long, with a tail slightly shorter16 inches total  (6 to 8 inches body length plus 6 to 8 inches tail)
Aspect Stocky, heavy-bodied, grayish-brown fur, small eyes, scaly tailSlender, grayish to dark gray or black fur, large eyes and ears, hairless tail
HabitatUnderground burrows, near human dwellings, buildings, sewersAerial harborages, tree canopies, dense shrubs, climbing vines
RegionStatewide, urban and rural areasStatewide; roof rats usually hang out near coasts and ports, but don’t be surprised if they pop up in towns far from the sea too.
BehaviorNocturnal, burrowing, omnivorous with a preference for cereal grains, meats, fish, nuts, fruitsNocturnal, climbing, omnivorous with a preference for citrus fruit, seeds, nuts, birdseed, meat, grease

Special Mention: 

In the forests of Tennessee, you’ll find some cute critters called woodrats – locals sometimes call them pack rats because they love to collect stuff. The eastern woodrat hangs out in West Tennessee, and its relative, the Southern Appalachian woodrat, prefers the southeast. Up more central and north, there’s the Allegheny woodrat. 

Woodrats usually stick to their natural homes in the woods, caves, or rock shelters, but they might drop by for supplies or a snack if they spot something interesting on your property. Even though they’re not often a headache for homeowners, woodrats can be a nuisance if they get too cozy around your home.  

To spot them, look for their brown fur, rounded fluffy tails, and big eyes. 

Telltale Signs of Rats

Rats are bigger and not exactly the stealthiest residents, so you’ll notice some pretty clear hints if they’re bunking with you. Here’s what to look out for:

  • Large droppings that have a more banana-like shape than mouse droppings;
  • Distinctive gnaw marks on practically anything – think wood, plastic, and even concrete;
  • Oily rub marks along walls where their greasy fur brushes up against surfaces as they zip by;
  • Noisy rumblings in the attic or clatter under the floorboards at night when rats come out to play.

Rat Preventive Tips

trimming of spring plants
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Good luck trying to explain personal boundaries to a rat, right? These crafty critters just love playing house in your space. But a clean zone and some smart anti-rodent strategies can really cramp their style. Here’s a rundown on keeping those rats at bay:

  • Maintain a tidy landscape with trimmed shrubs and no debris – it’s less inviting for rats to set up shop;
  • Store trash securely and far from your home. Rats are ace dumpster divers, and they’ll party hard in loose garbage;
  • Repair any leaky pipes or faucets;
  • Block entry points just like you would for mice – a cozy rat-sized doorway is an open invitation.

Did you know that rats can chew through almost anything? So, make sure to cover up any possible entrances with sturdy materials like metal sheeting. 

Rat Trapping Tips

Rats are craftier and bolder than their smaller relatives, making them trickier to catch, especially if they’ve settled into a place they like. It’s smart to call in expert help, but if you’re up for the challenge, act fast. Here’s how to outsmart those clever critters and set some traps: 

  • Go for rat-specific traps that can cope with their size and strength – rat snap traps, electric traps, or live catch are good choices; Need help deciding the best rat traps? 

Consider these when making your choice: Are you comfortable handling dead rats? If not, opt for a live catch. What’s the level of infestation? High? Multiple snap traps might work best.

  • You’ll want to load up those traps with treats that rats go crazy for, like a bit of bacon or a bit of peanut butter. Just keep in mind not all these critters are the same. Hence, the best bait for rat traps varies – just test the waters until you snag them.
  • Position those traps in dark, secluded spots where rats have left their mark – they’re creatures of habit and will often retrace their steps;
  • Stay vigilant and inspect your traps frequently. Caught a rat? Dispose of it fast or relocate it far from home, according to local regulations.
  • Also, wear gloves. You don’t want to be touching these critters or their hangouts with your bare hands – diseases are on the menu if you’re not careful.
  • Place your traps unset with bait — give rats time to trust, then activate them.

Removing Rats From Burrows

Did you know that besides invading your home, wild Norway rats are also pretty good at playing “groundhog” in your yard? Yes, these tireless chewers love to burrow into the ground and create complex tunnel systems right under your feet. 

The entrances are usually about two inches across and lead to a network of routes ranging from just beneath the surface to up to four feet deep.

  • Flood the burrow: Turn their comfy burrow into a soggy swamp by sticking a garden hose down the hole and turning on the tap. Most rats will dash for dry land rather than tread water in their former home.
  • Smoke them out: Another efficient strategy is using smoke bombs designed specifically for this purpose. Light one, drop it in the entrance of each burrow, and then cover up any potential exits immediately so they can’t avoid the smoke.
  • Use commercial rodenticides: Available at most home improvement stores, these poisonous baits are effective but should be used with caution and placed within bait stations, especially if children or other animals are around the area. 

*Note: Fumigation and poison should always be handled by those legitimately licensed as misapplication can cause harm to pets and other non-target species.

Woodchuck (Marmota monax)

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Woodchucks are Tennessee’s very own excavation experts. You might know them by their various aliases like groundhog or whistle pigs. These rodents often rise to fame every February 2nd, hogging the limelight to predict spring’s arrival, but their jobs consist of chowing down on your veggies and leaving quite the mess behind.

Woodchuck Identification in Tennessee

Spotting a woodchuck isn’t too tricky – not with their distinctive build and habits. They’re sturdy, round-bellied rodents with grizzled grayish-brown fur that can grow up to about 20 inches long from snout to rump, not counting the tail, which adds another 6 to 7 inches. 

General Characteristics of Woodchuck

SizeAbout 20 inches long (excluding tail), 5–12 pounds
AspectStocky body, covered in brownish fur, small ears, and a bushy tail. Capable of climbing trees and swimming
HabitatMeadows, woodlots, pastures, hedgerows, idle fields, parks, and suburbs. They create burrows for living and hibernation.
RegionFound nearly everywhere in Tennessee
BehaviorDiurnal, most active in the early morning and evening. Generally solitary, but may hibernate in small groups. 

Telltale Signs of Woodchuck

You’ll likely find them digging deep burrows in well-drained soil, typically around fields, pastures, and the edges of woodlands – with a side dish of a vegetable garden nearby for easy munching. 

Their burrows? Well, they’re something of an underground fortress with multiple entrances and escape routes. If you see large mounds of soil near the openings, that’s a woodchuck’s telltale sign. 

Woodchuck Preventive Tips

These burly vegetarians love your garden as much as you do. So the goal here is simple – make them look for snacks elsewhere. Start with the following:

  • Keep grass mowed short and remove dense vegetation to make the area less appealing to woodchucks;
  • Install sturdy fences around gardens and trees. A good fence should stand at least 6 feet tall with the bottom buried 10 inches deep to discourage digging.
  • Regularly inspect your property for burrows or disturbed soil to identify woodchuck activity early.
  • Since woodchucks rely on dew as their water source, reducing standing water can make your property less attractive.

Woodchuck Trapping Tips

You need a game plan when woodchucks hit your radar with their digging habits. Lethal traps are legal year-round in Tennessee, but if you want to handle the situation more gently, live trapping is an option, too. 

Just keep in mind that the relocation of trapped woodchucks may be subject to local regulations, so it’s wise to check with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency first.

Here are a few tips:

  • Use a sturdy cage trap with strong wire mesh, at least 15 to 24 inches in size;
  • Set traps baited with fruits or vegetables, and check them twice daily. Conceal the trap with grass or canvas for better results;
  • Position traps near burrow entrances and use a one-way trigger to ensure the woodchuck is caught when leaving its burrow.

*Note: Take extra precautions during the breeding season from March to May when woodchucks are most active. If these little tips aren’t cutting it for you, we’ve got a whole guide called ‘How to Get Rid of Groundhog‘ ready to help out even more.

Voles (Microtus)

vole sitting on ground and eating
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Tiny but mighty in their ability to disrupt, voles resemble small mice and are quite the gardeners’ nightmare. They are vegetarians, feasting on seeds, nuts, roots, bulbs, and your lovingly-tended plants. If you notice your garden or yard suddenly looking like a salad bar after a lunch rush, voles might be the culprits.  

Vole Identification in Tennessee

So, how do you tell a mouse from a vole? Besides its hobby of creating subterranean labyrinths in your backyard, a vole also has a solid, pudgy body. Their tail? Short, furry. In contrast, the mouse parades a long, mainly hairless one.

In Tennessee, you could find several types of voles making guest appearances in your yard:

  • Meadow Vole: Showing a preference for the eastern part of the state, this vole is known for its dark brown summer coat that turns gray during winter. Identifiable by a tail about twice the length of its hind foot, it generally resides in moist areas with thick grasses and reeds.
  • Woodland Vole: Sporting a distinctive reddish-brown fur, this vole also boasts a suitably short tail and quite likes being underground. With its preference for dense ground cover locations ranging from fields beside forests to back gardens, these voles can be found all across Tennessee.
  • Prairie Vole: Unlike their woodland relatives, prairie voles prefer to live in the tall grasses of open areas or light deciduous woodlands. Recognizable by their yellow-brown fur and black guard hairs, they are typically identified in western and middle parts of Tennessee.

General Characteristics of Voles 

Size3 to 9 inches long, depending on the species; weight typically around 0.75 to 2.25 ounces
AspectStout body, longer hairy tail, rounder head, and smaller eyes and ears
HabitatVarious habitats including woodlands, grasslands, and agricultural areas; often found in areas with dense ground cover
RegionStatewide, but different species may favor various environments within Tennessee
BehaviorSocial and active all year round, both day and night, voles don’t hibernate and can breed throughout the seasons if the conditions are right.

Telltale Signs of Voles

Generally, there’s a good chance of a vole visitation if you start noticing peculiar runway-like paths on your lawn. Voles enjoy their landscaping and tend to carve out well-trodden trails through the grass connecting burrow entrances, almost like their own personal underground metro system.

Voles Preventive Tips

person trimming tall grass in lawn
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Keeping voles from turning your yard into their favorite diner comes down to a couple of strategic moves, including:

  • Trim that lawn low and limit mulchy areas – voles are shy, and they hate open spaces because it’s tough to hide.
  • Tilling destroys vole tunnels, which can help reduce their populations;
  • Voles are deterred by fescue grass, as it makes them sick. Consider planting or mixing in fescue grass;
  • Use woven wire or hardware cloth with a mesh size of one-fourth inch or smaller to fence around gardens and trees. The fence should be 12 inches high and extend 6 inches below ground, bent inward at the bottom.

Voles Trapping Tips

Ready to lay down the law on voles? Here’s what you need to know:

  • Use a mixture of peanut butter and oatmeal or sliced apples as bait. Place mouse traps at tunnel entrances with the trigger facing the tunnel mouth.
  • Set mouse snap traps perpendicular to runways with the trigger end in the runway. Bait may not be necessary for traps with expanded triggers.

Removing Voles From Burrows

Voles might be fuzzy, but they certainly aren’t friendly neighbors, and you’ll want to evict them promptly. Here are some tips on how to oust the garden invaders:

  • Not being big fans of water sports, voles can sometimes be forced out of their underground fortress by flooding it with a hose. Just keep in mind that this might not work on a complex tunnel system or cause unwanted water logging in your yard.
  • While some advocate for fumigation and smoke bombs, they can be tricky to use effectively due to voles’ complex and often extensive burrow systems. Due to potential health hazards, professionals should only use this approach.
  • Although it’s an option, rodenticides require careful handling due to their poisonous nature. Professionals typically use these and should be the last resort option, mainly because they can harm non-target animals or even pets if ingested.


an image of a squirrel holding a nut
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You can bet your bottom dollar that squirrels are as common as sweet tea and country tunes in Tennessee. The main gripe with squirrels? They can be quite the home invaders. An open chimney or a crack in the eaves is like a welcome mat for those critters to set up shop. Once comfy, they can gnaw on wood or wiring, causing damage and potential fire hazards. 

Plus, their nests can block vents, cause moisture problems, and potentially damage HVAC systems.

Squirrel Identification in Tennessee

When identifying these furry creatures, look out for a mid-sized rodent with a bushy tail and an insatiable curiosity. You might spot three common species of squirrels throughout the state:

  • Eastern Gray Squirrels – Sporting a grizzled gray coat often tinged with cinnamon, this squirrel can be found statewide, from dense hardwood forests to city parks.
  • Southern Flying Squirrel – Among the smallest tree squirrels in Tennessee, these nocturnal critters have soft grayish-brown fur and large black eyes that shine bright during nighttime. 
  • Red Squirrel – Smaller and decked out in reddish fur. They’re most active during the day and are known for their hoarding habit, particularly of pine cones.

General Characteristics of Squirrel

SizeVaries by species; Eastern Gray Squirrel: 17 to 20 inches including the tail, Red Squirrel: 11 to 14 inches including the tail; 
AspectBushy tail, slender body; color varies by species (gray, red, black);
HabitatWoodlands, urban parks, backyards; 
RegionSquirrels can be found all across the state, with red squirrels located in the spruce-fir forests at some of the highest peaks in Northeast Tennessee, such as Roan Mountain;
BehaviorGenerally solitary except during breeding season; territorial.

Telltale Signs of Squirrels

If you’ve got squirrels, your place is probably a bit louder than usual, especially during the early hours or as evening rolls around. Look also out for:

  • Chew marks on wood, siding, or even wires (a fire hazard waiting to happen);
  • Nesting materials cluttering up your attic or chimney;
  • A racket overhead early in the morning as they scurry about.

Squirrels Preventive Tips

gardener trimming a tree in the yard
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Keeping those lively little creatures out of your house isn’t a walk in the park, but here’s a quick rundown:

  • Trim back tree branches that reach too close to your house – it cuts off their highway;
  • Set up metal or plastic baffles on trees about 6 feet off the ground – think of them as “no-climb zones” for squirrels;
  • Cover up any holes or entry points with sturdy material like hardware cloth or metal flashing. Squirrels aren’t shy about squeezing through small spaces.

Squirrels Trapping Tips

Squirrels have a knack for squeezing into spaces you’d swear they couldn’t fit through, much less turn into their personal digs. When it comes to trapping them, it’s all about location and bait choice.

  • Use a live animal trap that is appropriately sized for squirrels; too big and they may not trigger it; too small and they won’t enter.
  • Tempt them with the good stuff: nuts or seeds work well as squirrel bait—think sunflower seeds or unsalted peanuts.
  • Set your traps in high squirrel traffic areas near entry points to your home or along paths they frequently use, like fence lines. 
  • Check on your traps regularly – squirrels don’t enjoy being caged and could injure themselves trying to escape.

Remember: the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has rules about relocating wildlife, and sometimes even squirrels have paperwork. So, check in before you shuttle any fluffy tail stowaways across county lines.

Looking for other ways to handle your squirrel visitors? Check our guide on ‘How to Get Rid of Squirrels‘ for more ideas that might work better for you, always keeping local laws in mind.

Chipmunks (Tamias striatus) 

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These adorable, stripe-adorned critters need no introduction. The flashy white and dark stripes down their backs make them easily identifiable, and they’re no stranger to the state of Tennessee. They’re remarkably adaptable, making homes in a variety of surroundings such as woods or suburban gardens and yards.  

Sure, those cheek pouches look awfully darling when they stuff them full of nuts and seeds for late munching. But chipmunks aren’t always the cute and harmless critters they seem to be. They love burrowing under structures, riverbanks, and yards. 

Chipmunks Identification in Tennessee

Tennessee’s favorite striped explorer, the Eastern Chipmunk, sports two white and five black stripes that stretch from its neck to its tail. It is small but noticeable, with a total body length between 8 and 10 inches and a weight of around 2 to 5 ounces. 

Other features include tawny to reddish-brown fur, plus generous cheek pouches for carrying food. While they might be seen scampering around during the day, their burrows are usually well-hidden to protect against larger predators.

General Characteristics of Chipmunks 

SizeBody length of 5 to 6 inches with a tail length of 3 to 4 inches, weighing about 3 ounces
AspectThese critters sport a reddish-brown coat with striking dark stripes, a fluffy tail, and light markings over their eyes.
HabitatLeafy forests, gardens, and city parks. They love big trees but steer clear of soggy, thick bushes.
RegionAll across the state;
BehaviorSolitary, except for females with dependent young. They are territorial, especially around their burrows.

Telltale Signs of Chipmunks 

Some telltale signs of a chipmunk’s presence might include their distinctive  “chip,” “chuck,” and “trill” sounds, especially when they detect a threat. When outside, you might spot small holes about two inches in diameter dug by chipmunks in your yard.

Chipmunks Preventive Tips

Keeping chipmunks in check involves removing their food sources – so tidy up those fallen berries and nuts. Use hardware cloth to protect flowerbeds and bulbs, and consider live traps if you fancy gently relocating your striped visitors.

Chipmunk Trapping Tips

Kat Sense Covered Rat & Chipmunk Traps, Prevents Accidental Triggering with Tunneled Design, Quick Humane Kill, Indoor 'N Outdoor Mouse Snap Traps

The trick to chipmunk wrangling isn’t all that different from other rodent showdowns. If you’re dealing with a chipmunk cha-cha line straight through your yard, get yourself some small live traps and get ready for action.

  • Humane trapping and relocating can be effective, especially for a small number of chipmunks. Use a live trap (12 or 14 inches long and 4 to 5 inches wide) and bait it with peanut butter, seeds, or fruits.
  • Snap traps work well too. Just tuck them under something like a tunnel-like cover so other non-target animals stay safe and feel secure for chipmunks. 
  • By law, you need to check traps every 36 hours. Once you catch one, either set it free in your yard or humanly say goodbye (professionally euthanize it) there. 

*Note: Too many chipmunks or too cute to catch? It might be time to dial up wildlife control for backup. And hey, if you need more clever tricks to keep those adorable troublemakers out, just take a peek at our full guide on how to get rid of chipmunks.

Here are some good snap and live traps for chipmunks you can find on Amazon. These should help catch those little critters safely and easily.

Kat Sense Covered Rat & Chipmunk Traps, Prevents Accidental Triggering

Kensizer Humane Rat Trap

Easy Chipmunk Trap (2 Pack)

Muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus

Muskrats hang out in the watery parts of Tennessee, including Nashville and Murfreesboro, making a splash with their semi-aquatic lifestyle. Not ones to shy away from a little construction work, these critters build impressive homes by piling vegetation into dome-shaped lodges or burrowing snug dens into the banks of rivers and ponds. 

Muskrats Identification in Tennessee

Chilling by the banks or swimming through the lazy streams, muskrats are Tennessee’s little water lovers. They’re easy to spot with their slick brown fur and long, scaly tails that whip and propel them like tiny motorboats.

Muskrats are medium-sized and can measure up to two feet long, including the tail. They’re quite the sight when spotted in their aquatic hangouts. Unlike beavers, which they often get mistaken for, muskrats have a much slimmer build and a rat-like appearance. They carve out cozy dens near water edges, which does wonders for wetland habitats but can spell trouble for homeowners dealing with potential flood damage.  

General Characteristics of Muskrats

SizeLength: 16.0 to 25.3 inches (including tail); Tail: 7.0 to 11.5 inches; Weight: 1.5 to 4.0 pounds
AspectA rodent with a large head, stocky body, short legs, and a scaly, vertically flattened tail slightly shorter than the total body length. Dense, glossy fur on the back is blackish-brown with lighter brown sides.
HabitatThey like calm waters, think of spots like peaceful lakes or slow-flowing rivers. You’ll find them in quiet ponds and even man-made ditches or marshy areas too.
RegionFound state-wide in Tennessee.
BehaviorLive with their mate and young. More active at dusk but feeding throughout the day. Remain active through winter.

Telltale Signs of Muskrats 

How can you tell if these whiskered water dwellers are nearby? One giveaway is their trademark lodges and den openings along the bank, which might have some chewed-up vegetation lying around.

Muskrats Preventive Tips

If you’re witnessing some muskrat action by your water’s edge and thinking about prevention, you’re inching toward peace of mind territory. Muskrats just love redecorating with their own special flair by digging and burrowing. 

To steer clear of muskrat pests:

  • Remove aquatic plants like cattails and water lilies they munch on – think of it as putting their snack bar out of business.
  • Put up a fence made from 1-inch mesh around ponds; make sure to dig down at least twelve inches into the bank so they can’t sneak under it.
  • Keep those water banks well-groomed, just like you’d tame an unruly lawn. Cutting the grass short makes for a less appealing muskrat homestead.

Muskrats Trapping Tips

When trapping becomes the name of the game, know that timing and method are everything. Set humane live traps near the entrances to their dens or lodges. You can bait them with lettuce or cabbage.

  • Conibear traps or body grip ones are awesome at doing the job fast – use a 110 size, about 5″x5″, perfect for setting at entrances or spots where muskies hang out.
  • A multiple-door live trap can also be a really good option. Traps with two doors allow entry from both ends, increasing the chances of capturing a muskrat as they can enter from either direction.
  • Find the underwater trails they love, leading straight from the shore. Spot these paths? That’s where your trap should go.
  • Check their homes out – look for a hole around 6 to 8 inches wide on a riverbank or waterway wall. Plunk your trap right outside their doorstep.
  • Make sure the trap is sitting nice, and even so, it works just right – you might want to stake it down at corners.

Remember: When it comes to trapping muskrats, state laws are calling the shots. Always double-check with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) for any required permits or rules so you don’t get in hot water (and we’re not talking about your pond). Plus, if this whole trapping business isn’t quite your jam, you could always hire a licensed rodent wildlife control operator to take the reins.

Nutria (Myocastor coypus) 

a photo of a nutria on 
Photo Credit: delectus / Canva Pro / License

Nutria, or river rats as some might call them, strolled into the western regions of Tennessee like they owned the place. Originating from South America and introduced in Louisiana, these burly rodents made their way to freshwater streams, rivers, ponds, and marshes  – right around Memphis and beyond.

These critters can clear out an area of vegetation pretty quickly, potentially leading to erosion and negatively impacting waterfowl habitats and native plants. So, they’re not just a small concern – they’re a pretty big deal.

Nutria Identification in Tennessee

Spotting a nutria might remind you of a beaver or even a large muskrat, but these creatures have their own distinguishable vibe. Their hefty bodies can get up to 20 pounds heavy and stretch about three feet long, including their oddly round tails that are nothing like the flat paddle of a beaver.

Nutrias stand out with their big dark incisors. Plus, unlike their rodent roomies, the muskrat and beaver, nutria have less bushy tails – pretty much naked.

General Characteristics of Nutria

SizeLength: 30 to 42 inches; Tail: 12 to 18 inches; Weight: 15 to 25 pounds
AspectLarge, robust rodent with a large head, small ears, and a round, scaly, sparsely-haired tail. Brown fur above and lighter below, with a white muzzle and dark orange incisors. 
HabitatFound in freshwater streams, rivers, ponds, and marshes. They can adapt to various wetland habitats.
RegionOccurs in western Tennessee, with their range spreading eastward.
BehaviorNutria are social animals that live in family groups. They are primarily nocturnal but can be active during the day. They are excellent swimmers.

Telltale Signs of Nutria

If you live near water in Tennessee and suspect that nutria have been making themselves at home, take a look for burrowed-out banks – that’s their favorite kind of real estate. They enjoy chowing down on plant roots, which isn’t great news for any nearby vegetation and can lead to some serious landscaping woes. 

Moreover, keep an eye out for large patches where the greenery has suddenly gone bye-bye – like little crop circles in your backyard.

Muskrats Preventive Tips

Here’s the game plan to put a stop to those oversized rodent shenanigans:

  • Strip away any extra plants or buffer vegetation near water bodies; these critters love to munch on greens, so less salad bar equals less nutria hangout.
  • To keep nutria away from your gardens or crops, put up a fence that’s at least 4 feet high. And don’t forget to dig it down about 6 inches into the soil. This helps stop those critters from burrowing underneath.
  • Protect trees and wood near water with metal sheets to prevent chewing. Stop bank digging by building walls or piling up rocks. It works great.
  • Improve water flow and clear out dense plants near streams – that’ll make them think twice about staying.

Nutria Trapping Tips

Nutrias are hefty, so catching them isn’t easy. In Tennessee, if they’re on your turf, causing trouble, you can trap them without a permit. Just be sure to get written permission before trapping on someone else’s land. Keep it simple and play by the rules.

  • Use a Conibear® No. 220 trap – it works great at den entrances or along their pathways. 
  • Large cage traps (10 x 12 x 32 inches or bigger) are handy, especially if you want to avoid catching other animals by mistake. 
  • Sweet potatoes and carrots are the go-to baits for luring nutria and work with both types of traps mentioned. 
  • Place your traps where you see lots of nutria action, like around water spots or their favorite trails.
  • Try pre-baiting – put out food without setting the trap first.
  • Always check your traps regularly, once in the morning and once at night. Remember, nutrias are night owls and are most active after dark.
  • And before you do anything with a captured nutria, make sure to look up your local rules. Since they’re often not welcome guests (being invasive and all), releasing them elsewhere might be a no-go.

FAQ About Rodents in Tennessee

What is a common illness from rodents?

Besides being annoying, rodents are health hazards too, especially with something called Hantavirus that you can get from breathing in dust mixed with their droppings and urine. It’s a tough respiratory illness so chasing them off is not just to save your house but also to protect the health of you and your family. 

Watch out for deer mice, as they’re common carriers.

What is the best way to control rodents?

Best ways to tackle rodent problems vary, but tried-and-true methods mix a bit of know-how with a dash of prevention. Keep these rascals out by filling in holes – steel wool’s your friend here because rodents can’t chew through it. Seal up those entryways and give your kitchen a once-over every night with the vacuum to snatch up crumbs.

Outside, keep your garden in check and trash cans sealed up tight. 

What is a chemical used to control rodents?

There are a bunch of different chemicals, called rodenticides, that are used to deal with rodents. These include anticoagulants, which prevent the pests’ blood from clotting and cause them to pass away after a couple of days, as well as neurotoxins that mess up their nervous system.

But, it’s super important that these toxic products are handled by pros. They’re not just bad news for the rodents – pets, wildlife, and even little ones might accidentally get into them if we’re not careful.

Call In the Pros

Whether you’re spotting the fast-footed mouse, hitching a ride with scrappy brown rats, or catching a glimpse of those vegetable-loving nutrias – dealing with Tennessee’s rodent lineup can be quite a challenge. When you’ve set traps and sealed entries and still can’t shake off those furry freeloaders, it’s time to call in a local pest control professional.

Exterminators have all the tools and tactics to handle any kind of rodent roundup. They’ll check out your place, figure out where these pests are having a field day, and lay out a battle plan to get rid of those pests for good.

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Main Image Credits:
Background: Kruck20 / Canva Pro / License
Mouse: Pixabay

Luminita Toma

Luminita Toma, an outdoor enthusiast, channels her passion for nature into her writing. With a deep understanding of pest control, she's always on the hunt for the latest and most effective solutions. Beyond her work, she loves to spend time with her nearest and dearest, sharing stories and laughs.