Nutria – Myocastor Coypus

NUTRIA! What do we really know about this invasive species? Brought here in the late 1800’s, (more specifically the Pacific North West in the 1930’s), these critters have done nothing short of wreak havoc on the land they have been introduced to.

1.       Also called the coypu; Originally from South America

2.       Burrow near stretches of water such as slow moving rivers, streams, swamps, and marshes

3.       Feeds on river plants/stems but can also feast on snails and mussels.

4.       Looks similar to both beavers and muskrats but their tails are long and round with coarse hair as opposed to that of a beaver (large, flat horizontally, and paddle shaped) or that of a muskrat (long, flat vertically); both of which are scaly with very sparse hair.

5.       Nutria range anywhere from around 8 to 20 pounds as adults and are 28 to 56 inches long, including their tails.

6.       They have coarse, dark brown outer fur with a softer gray underfur that is referred to as the nutria.

7.       They have three characteristic features that include their gray/white fur-covered muzzle, webbed hind feet, and very brightly colored orange/yellow teeth.

8.       Females’ nipples are located high up on their flank to allow their babies to nurse while the female is in the water

9.       It is uncommon for a nutria to live past 3 years of age. One study suggests that 80% of nutria will die within their first year of life, while less than 15% will live up to 3 years old

10.   Males will typically reach sexual maturity at around 4 months old. In females, this can happen even earlier, at about three months. Both, however, can have a prolonged adolescence of up to 9 months before they reach maturity

11.   When a female becomes pregnant, gestation lasts around 130 days and she can have anywhere from 1 to up to 13 babies, though an average is about 4.5. The female can then get pregnant again the day after giving birth and repeats the process all over again. If this happens, a female can have up to three litters in one year.

12.   Babies are born with fur and with open eyes. They nurse for 7 to 8 weeks, though they are able to eat vegetation with their mother only hours after being born.

13.   Nutria consume about 25% of their body weight in vegetation on a daily basis and they do not hibernate

14.   Most commonly found in fresh water marshes and RARELY salt water marshes

15.   At one time nutria were captured for their fur so much so that people began to attempt to farm them. This was not very successful and many of the farmers either intentionally released them or they ended up escaping as the market for fur fell. Federal agencies then began to market them as a way to control vegetation.

16.   They are most common (in the United States) in gulf regions of Louisiana and Texas. This is also where they have done the most damage.

17.   The damage cause by nutria can be extensive and their burrowing effects dams, levees, river banks, dikes, road beds, and may even result in weakened foundations of near-water buildings, docks, and wharves.

18.   They are known to carry diseases such as tapeworms and blood flukes (parasitic flatworms)

19.   Nutria can also do great damage to crops as they are partial to alfalfa, clover, melons, oats, barley, wheat, corn. Cabbage, root crops and other vegetables.

20.   They girdle trees as well including fruit, nut, coniferous AND deciduous trees, and even the occasional ornamental shrub. They have also been known to dig up lawns and gardens in search of shoots and roots.

21.   Aggressive behavior in nutria has been a common occurrence so much so that they have driven out the muskrat population out of their natural territory.

If you suspect you have a problem with nutria on your property, don’t hesitate to give us a call! 1 (800) CRITTER

We serve King, Pierce, and parts of Snohomish Counties!


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