Watch out for Nutria!

Bill Wells reported in the Bay and Delta Yachtsman in his Delta Rat Scrapbook article in September that:

Just when we are getting the invasive plants in the Delta under control a new scourge rears its ugly head in the region, the nutria. They were first brought to California in 1899 when someone tried to establish a fur ranch with the animals in Los Angeles. They spread throughout the state and were subject to intense eradication efforts. By 1978 they were thought to be gone but apparently they just went underground and hid, waiting for the day to launch a new attack. Since the first one was seen in Merced last November over 200 have been caught in traps around the greater Delta area. Nutria are found in 30 states including the entire west coast and wreak havoc wherever they are found. They were introduced into southern states to control invasive plants like hyacinth. Unfortunately, they eat all plants including the roots. They also burrow into levees and farmlands. In some places in the U.S. they have turned tidal marsh into open water.

Nutria are carriers and transmit a host of communicable diseases. They don’t have many predators in California and one female can produce 200 offspring in her lifetime. These are some bad hombres. Right now the only way to deal with the Nutria invasion is to trap, poison or hunt them out of existence. In Louisiana there is a five-dollar bounty for each Nutria tail turned in to state agents. Also, in Louisiana, Nutria meat is on the menu in restaurants. They also make dog snacks out of the meat. Supposedly it is high in protein and low in fat compared to most domestic animals. In California it is illegal to hunt or possess the cute little creatures so the best you can do is report them when you see them.

Here is a link: Recently I have seen two dead animals alongside the road in the Walnut Grove/Isleton area that looked a lot like nutria. The roads did not have a shoulder near where I spotted them so I could not stop to investigate. Keep your eyes open for these pests; from a distance they can be confused with a beaver or muskrat. They are identifiable by their white muzzle and white whiskers.

Here’s more pictures and information:


Though muskrats may have a white muzzle, both muskrats and beaver have dark whiskers. Nutria have characteristic white whiskers, and most often have conspicuous, darks ears with light-colored fur underneath, as seen in this image. Photo courtesy of Peggy Sells.


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