Steve Power was out roaming with his camera this week and bagged a couple of shots of Nutrias near his native Lincoln City. As you can see from the photos, they look like beavers but have the tails of a large rat. The common name of the Nutria is “River Rat,” because they swim in rivers, lakes and estuaries and burrow into stream and lake banks. And by most accounts they’re a pain in the posterior for farmers, ranchers and anyone else who owns stream or lakeside property.
Wildlife biologists say Nutrias are prolific eaters of all kinds of wetland vegetation and they burrow deep into stream and lake banks which causes erosion and slumping. They produce up to three litters a year and give birth to fully-furred and eyes-wide-open young that can join their parents munching on grass and roots within hours of their birth.
Nutrias are an invasive species, so says MidCoast Watershed Council Director Wayne Hoffman. He said their native land is largely in the tropical areas of South America. They were brought to North America for “fur farming,” and over time enough of them escaped or were turned loose into the wild. And today, in Louisiana, they’re quite a pest.
One interesting aspect of the Nutria is that their meat is low fat and very low cholesterol. For those loathe to “go vegan,” there might be an entrepreneurial opportunity for somebody to make some money while clearing a region of an unwelcome and frequently damaging intruder.