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State Officials Say To Keep An Eye Out For Invasive Rodent Once Thought Long Gone

Timo Sack / Wikimedia Commons

Timo Sack / Wikimedia Commons

An invasive rodent from South America eradicated more than 50 years ago has been turning up in the San Joaquin Valley. State officials are hoping the public will report any sightings of nutria.

Nutria are semi-aquatic and can eat and tear up so much vegetation they threaten wetlands and marshes. Peter Tira is with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"They burrow, they burrow holes in tunnels, in dykes and levies and roadbeds and those kinds of things. So they present a real threat to our infrastructure, our flood control systems, they can carry diseases, they can damage crops," Tira says. 

They're also prolific breeders and can produce three litters in 13 months.

Tira says the rodents are tricky to see and identify. Nutria are in between the size of a beaver and a muskrat, usually about two-and-a-half feet in length and about 20 pounds.

They were eradicated in California in 1965, but they've been showing up in wetlands, rivers, canals and other freshwater habitat in Stanislaus, Merced, and Fresno Counties.

Drew Sandsor

Senior Producer, News

As Senior Producer of News, Drew works with reporters and anchors on the daily production and presentation of news stories on Capital Public Radio. He also works closely with the station's digital team on news coverage across various online platforms  Read Full Bio 

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