My parents called one day to say we had to see something very strange they had sighted from their second floor window. Their apartment overlooked the golf course with a sweeping view of the valley. We were used to seeing red tailed hawks, Canadian geese, red-winged blackbirds, mallard pairs, tall blue herons and golfers furtively moving their golf balls! But this new sighting was a strange critter we had never seen.
There were two of them. Over the next weeks we watched as these two dark balls of fur waddled and scurried along the water’s edge. They almost looked hunch-backed. Occasionally they would dive into the water to hide. They were almost two feet long and the tail added another foot to their length. Before long we saw an increase to the family. Four baby fur balls were added to the tribe. Our mission was to find their identity. One quick call to the Fish and Wildlife Service and we had our answer.
Meet the nutria, classified as a Prohibited Aquatic Animal Species. They are rodents originally native to parts of South America. By 1930, advertisements offered the sale of nutria for their fur and to help control excess plant growth in streams and lakes.
“More than 600 nutria farms existed in Oregon and Washington from the 1930s to the 1950s. Flooding and storms damaged holding structures, allowing nutria to escape. Farmers also released their stock when nutria farming became uneconomical. By the 1940s, nutria had been captured by trappers on both sides of the Cascade Mountains in Washington.” By 2013, “Nutria are found in lakes, wetlands, sloughs, drainage ditches, and irrigation canals along the Columbia River and north to Skagit County, WA.” 1
Nutria also cause problems in the waterways of Louisiana. “The stability of the Louisiana coastal ecosystem is threatened” so trapping is encouraged to the amount of $5.00 a tail. They hope to annually harvest 400,000 of these destructive rodents. 2
30 years later, we are still watching these crazy critters in the slough near our home. I use the zoom lens on my camera to take pictures. I’m not sure exactly how close I really want to get to them! Don’t want anyone to call me crazy!