California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials are on a mission to stop the spread of a large species of rodent from South America which is invading California and may become an even bigger problem than first thought. That is because they are breeding at an almost unbelievable rate, according scientists who study them.
According to Peter Tira with DFW, the nutria is something like a cross between a rat and a beaver. They can weigh 20 to 25 pounds and prefer California's wetlands as the habitat of choice. The problem with the nutria is that they are also very destructive.
Tira calls them California's triple threat. They can destroy the wetlands and push out the animals which depend on those environments. The nutria are considered a top pest by the state's agricultural industry, and they are known to burrow into and weaken earthen structures, like the levees which provide flood protection and canals which deliver much needed water to Central Valley communities and farms.
Nearly every female nutria caught by DFW officials has been pregnant, according to Tira. He also says the young nutria are capable of reproducing within a matter of months after their own birth, which could lead to an exponential population explosion of the animals is unchecked.
For now, the DFW officials are trapping and killing the nutria, then they conduct necropsies to learn more about animals.
Tira says there are other states where the nutria are entrenched that it is considered next to impossible now to remove them.