Rats Squirrels Mice
The nutria, myocastor coypus, was introduced to North
America around the 1930's by fur traders in several of our southwest states waterways. Long and behold
less than twenty years later the damage to marshes, levees, rice and sugarcane would soon be revealed.
The nutria, myocastor coypus, translates from two Greek words meaning mouse beaver. This would help describe
the animal. They resemble a large rat with adults weighing in at 10-20 pounds, around 15-24 inches in body
length and tails that grow 12-18 inches long. Nutria have three layers of protective hair and numerous whiskers that grow 4 inches in length. Their color
is brownish and both sexes are around the same size. Nutria's tails are round
and have very little hair.
Nutria spend most of their lives in or around water. They are vegetarians with huge appetites, and will occasionally wander inland
and feed on local crops. Like all other animals the nutria are preyed upon,
attracting alligators, moccasins, hawks, eagles, and owls to their territories -
all looking to make the nutria their meal for the day.
Damage from the nutria can be on a very large scale as the nutria can completely
wipe out a species of aquatic plant in a certain area. Nutria are more prone to
eat just before sunrise or just after sunset, the same preferred feeding time as
rats and mice. They eat about 25 percent of their
body weight daily. Nutria rip the plant out by the root therefore making the
plant unable to re-grow. Once the plant species is gone, if not replanted within
a certain time, inedible plants begin to appear impacting many aquatic bird and fish diets. The abolishment of the plants also has a major impact on flood
control and erosion in the region.
Nutria are also infested with roundworms. The roundworm larvae are found around the area where the nutria is found. The larvae
are small enough to penetrate human skin causing inflammation which may require medical assistance. This inflammation is called "Nutria itch."
In the mid 1980's the international fur market declined and nutria were less
harvested. The market at one point was in such demand that the nutria was once
considered a protected species. Due to the decline in harvesting, more and more
damage was being noticed now in a bigger area. Although nutria stay around water
areas, they will venture off to feed on and destroy local crops. When the nutria is out of the water
it looks like its belly is dragging on the ground and its back is hunched. They
are capable of being fast on land even though it looks very awkward for them.
Along with many different aquatic plant species, the nutrias preferred foods are
sugarcane, corn, rice, alfalfa. For nutria to wander away from the water is not
uncommon. There have also been instances when nutria have gnawed through wood,
tires and whatever else is in the area.
The den entrance for the nutria is usually one to two feet under the water with
a diameter of around two feet. The main living quarters are above the water line
though, they are lined with local grasses and brush. A den is occupied by a
male, two to three females, and whatever size the litters are. The size of the
litters are usually an average of five, but no litter is exactly the same in number as the
previous litter. Females become mature at around four to five
months and usually have two litters per year. Females can produce litters up to
seven times in a lifetime, but the seventh litter is rare.
The coastal wetlands planning, protection, and restoration act, also known as
the Breaux Act, was passed in 2000 by congress. This act provides funding for the
restoration and conservation of the many areas the nutria have destroyed. Many trappers consider the nutria fur, or pelts, as their form of income. Around two
million pelts are harvested annually, therefore traps are available for the control of this aquatic pest.
Thanks to Jason Helmig for making the Nutria Information page possible!
and Pests Live Animal
Traps Pest Control Supplies