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Friday, May 4, 2018

Invasive Species: The Nutria

Have you ever heard of a critter called the nutria?

Better known as the coypu (Myocastor coypus), it is a large semi-aquatic rodent native to South America that looks like an otter, but less cute owing to a large pair of front teeth that make it look similar to a beaver... in fact, the Dutch call it the beverrat (beaver rat).

Rat, because it is related to the spiny rat family.

In Japan, North America and parts of the northern Europe once occupied by states with the former USSR, the coypu is called the nutria.

It was introduced to Japan in 1919 to create an addition to its fur trade, but when the market went south, rather than just kill the nutria, farmers let them go into the wild.

It wasn't uncommon, the same thing happened in the U.S.        

In Japan, with no major enemies to pry upon it, the nutria population has increased tremendously.

In the U.S., the 20-pound (9.07 kilogram) nutria has become a problem creature, with the California Fish and Wildlife Department issuing a warning about the influx of nutria population, with recent populations taking hold of the San Joaquin Valley near San Francisco.

The main concern is that the nutria quickly raze the native habitat of flora.

IN the U.S., Nutria were imported in the late 19th century to Avery Island about 30 miles south of Lafayette, Louisiana, where they make the famous Tabasco hot sauce.

The nutria don't even breed like rabbits... they each breed like dozens of rabbits, with some 200 offspring a year, made worse by the fact that they reach sexual maturity in four to six months and have five to seven pups in a litter, with several litter a year.

While I said that the nutria were first introduced to Japan in 1910, I do know that a major fur trade was established in 1939 when 150 nutria were imported from France and farmed for Japanese military and consumer use.

Farms were established in Gifu, Shizuoka, Aichi, Mie, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Okayama, Tottori, Hiroshima, Shimane, Yamaguchi and Kagawa prefectures.   


When the fur trade essentially collapsed in the 1950s, the nutria in the farms were released into the wild.

In Japan, the nutria are damaging aquatic plants, but are also destroying river banks, rice fields and water reservoirs due to its burrowing.

I have no idea if nutria taste good, but it seems about time that we find out.

Kanpai, 
Andrew Joseph
PS: Image at top, taken by Peleg - at Wikipedia

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