Is the Nutria, an Invasive Rodent Plaguing Wetlands, Cute or Not? 


They’re an ecological menace literally known as “river rats.” But is the nutria maybe a little cute? Just a tiny bit?

Nutria, according to an informative new report on the creatures’ spread in California from the Guardian, are “dog-sized invasive rodents with curved orange incisors that have decimated marshes and swamps worldwide.” But are they cute? Let’s examine the evidence.

They are very soft and fluffy, and in fact that’s how nutria have found themselves far from their native South American environs—they’re cultivated for their fur. Look how cuddly!

It’s also certainly true that they are an ecological disaster. Via the Guardian:

But fur is out of fashion, and escaped or released nutria have proven voracious. A nutria can consume a quarter of its body weight in plant material per day, chowing through the vegetation that holds wetlands together and burrowing through levees meant to prevent flooding. In Louisiana, it has been reported that nutria have converted more than 40 square miles of marshland to open water since 2000. To make matters worse, they are prodigiously fertile. Females can have litters three times a year, producing five or six pups each time.

But kinda cute, right?

Not to California state biologist Greg Gerstenberg, who wants to eradicate the invasive species before they get a good foothold in his state, which is already hard-pressed to maintain its remaining wetlands. “We’ve spent millions rehabbing these wetlands in California,” he said. “If it gets to where there’s 50 nutria per acre, there won’t be anything green here.”

“They’re kinda cute when they’re small,” he added. “But they don’t stay small.” Which is a very good point. This is cute in a small animal, but something closer to the size of a medium-sized dog is much less amenable:

Yes, I’m afraid that Greg very likely has the correct take, now that I have seen these little critters’ teeth.

So? What do you say?

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