By Emy and Ms. Laine
The nutria is a large semi-aquatic rodent native to South America. Nutria live in the wetlands. They are well suited for this habitat because they have thick water-resistant coats, webbed feet and big strong teeth to cut down and grind up tough wetland plants. Speaking of teeth, you can identify a nutria by looking at its long orange incisors. Incisors is the scientific term for front teeth. You have incisors too! Just like the nutria, our incisors help to bite and tear into food. A nutria’s incisors contain iron which gives them a distinctive orange coloring.
The nutria is an invasive species.
This means that they are not from
America, and that they are harmful to
the environment in which they have
been introduced. Nutria were brought to
America to be used in the fur trade
industry. Nutria kept in cages found
ways to escape. Once out of their
enclosures, the wild nutria population
skyrocketed due to high reproductive
rates. A female nutria can have over 20
babies a year! That’s a lot of babies.
Overtime the nutria started to outcompete native rodents like the muskrat. They also caused significant damage to the wetlands by eating plants that hold together the loose soil of the Louisiana coastline. People began taking note of the damage caused by nutria. Government agencies such as the Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife instituted programs to monitor and control nutria populations. While it’s unlikely that we will ever get rid of nutria in the United States, it is important to continue managing the populations to prevent further damage to the wetlands.