Nutria are large semi-aquatic rodents brought to the United States from South America for the fur industry. Some got loose into the wild and have quickly populated the marshy areas of Louisiana and other parts of the country. Though still prized in some places for its fur: the nutria is viewed as a pest for its destructive feeding patterns which destroy levees, canal banks, ponds, and other areas near water.
Sometimes mistaken for beavers the nutria have orange teeth and their tail is round unlike the flatter tails of the beaver. Nutrias grow as large as 30 pounds and can be two and a half feet long. Like a beaver they also have webbed hind feet and smaller front paws. Also like a beaver the nutria can shut its nose and ears can be closed while submerged. A nutria can swim quite a distance underwater.
Nutria breed year round and each litter can produce up to a dozen young. A fertile female nutria can have sometimes three litters a year. If a pair of nutria arrive in your waterway it can be quickly overrun in a matter of months.
In the photos to the right can be seen the type of damage created by nutria feeding. Nutria can eat up to a third of their bodyweight a day and prefer the bottom parts of the plants, stems and roots. Their eating habits create massive amounts of erosion while their burrowing can weaken levees and the sides of waterways.
When English Turn had a serious nutria problem Trapper John was called and caught over 1,400 nutria in four months using both body gripping and live traps. After those four months no nutria could be found in the ponds and waterways of English Turn though without constant vigilance nutria can re-establish a colony slipping in from adjacent bodies of water.
Trapper John cleared Trinity Island, one of the restored barrier islands, of nutria for the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources in 2007. Click here or on the photo to read more on this endeavor.