National

Rodent from hell: They weigh 20 pounds, breed like rabbits – and they’re on the move

Nutria, a 20-pound rodent with the ability to destroy roads, levees and wetlands, has been discovered in marshlands on the west side of California’s San Joaquin Valley, ranging from near Grayson in Stanislaus County to south of Dos Palos.
Nutria, a 20-pound rodent with the ability to destroy roads, levees and wetlands, has been discovered in marshlands on the west side of California’s San Joaquin Valley, ranging from near Grayson in Stanislaus County to south of Dos Palos.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has issued a warning about an influx of large, semi-aquatic rodents that have been caught reproducing within the San Joaquin Valley.

Cut to “The Princess Bride.”

Nutria (or Myocastor coypus) fall somewhere between a beaver and a groundhog and are much larger than a muskrat (up to five times larger, according tot CDFW). They can grow to more than 2 feet long, not counting the 12-inch tail, and weigh up to 20 pounds.

So, “rodents of unusual size,” then.

This is a problem because the animal can cause major wildlife destruction – ruining 10 times the vegetation they consume, according to CDFW. They also burrow in dikes, levees and road beds, according to California Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Peter Tira.

“They weaken infrastructure, (which is) problematic for flood control systems,” Tira told SF Gate.

nutria-teeth-2-TonyNorthrup
Nutria are destructive eaters. CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Nutria also breed like rabbits – meaning early and often. Females are reproductive at six months old, breed year-round and can produce three litters in 13 months. Within a year, one female can have more than 200 offspring, which can disperse as far as 50 miles, according to CDFW.

Native to South America, nutria were introduced to the state in 1899 for their mink-like fur. They were thought to be eradicated from the state in the late 1970s, a colony may have stayed under the radar and only recently reemerged, according to SF Gate’s report.

The discovery of nutria in the area – some 20 male, pregnant female and juvenile nutria have been found since September south of Dos Palos and in western Merced and Stanislaus counties – is so worrisome that the CDFW has put together a response team to eradicate the animal from the state for good.

If you spot a nutria, take an appropriate moment to freak out, then immediately contact the CDFW Invasive Species Program online or by phone 866-440-9530.

Do not go the way of the Moscow restaurant Krasnodar Bistro, which has made nutria part of it’s focus on high-quality local ingredients.

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479, @joshuatehee

No one likes finding out that rats have made themselves at home in your house. Here are six tips for keeping rats away.

  Comments