A nutria has recently been found in Stanislaus County. Nutria are huge rodents that have the potential to destroy natural environments and man-made infrastructures. They usually measure about 2 feet, six inches, and weight about 20 pounds.
Nutria look like beavers and muskrats, so it is easy to mistake them for those animals. However, their white whiskers, webbed feet with one free toe and rounded tail are tell-tale signs of their species.
Nutria are originally from South America. They were brought to California in 1899 because it was thought that their fur was as luxurious as mink. Some nutria escaped from California fur farms and lived in the wild, creating a wild population of nutria. Experts thought that the wild population of nutria was destroyed by 1978, though they now believe that there has been a very small population that has lived under the radar—until now.
Between 1978 and now, there could have been nutria sightings, but people may not have given any mind to what animals they were looking at, or they may have mistaken the nutria for others species.
Ever since 2017, there have been more than 20 sightings in Fresno, Stanislaus and Merced counties. Experts worry that if the population of nutria isn’t dealt with, it could explode. Nutria have the ability to deliver up to 200 young each year.
Nutria are a problem because they destroy environments by burrowing in places like dikes, wetlands, levees and roads. They are capable of carrying out a lot of damage. Each day, nutria consumer about 25% of their body weight in vegetation, and they are capable of easily destroying about ten times that amount.
They have contaminated some water supplies because their presence results in the transmission of diseases and parasites to humans and other creatures.
The nutria problem is not unique to California; they have been known to cause damage in Louisiana and Chesapeake. Because they have no natural predators in the places that they have infested, their numbers go unchecked and fly out of control. They dig and eat up so much aquatic vegetation that they are a serious threat to natural environments, as well as man made environments.
To curb the problem, experts are setting out traps and cam trails. They are also asking the public to report any nutria sightings.