Myocastor coypus Photo Andrea Lynch ©
Nutria are large aquatic South American rodents that weigh as much as 20 pounds. Their bodies are about a foot long, and they have a long hairless tail like a rat. Nutria were introduced to the US by fur farmers and escaped animals have colonized the waterways of Louisiana, Texas and several other southern states where they have caused massive damage to coastal wetlands. They were introduced to Florida in 1955.
Nutria are usually shy retiring animals that spend most of their time in and around the water eating plants. They have large appetites and feed on the roots and stems of marsh vegetation—they often cut and carry food to a feeding platform.
Nutria breed in any month of the year and females usually have two litters per year. The young are born fully furred, with eyes open and can move about and feed upon green vegetation within a few hours. They have been reported from a wide area of Florida, but populations appear and then disappear in most areas. They are consistently reported from Hillsborough County in the Tampa Bay area, where they have been breeding for the past 10 years, and from Jacksonville where this animal was photographed at noon near a retention pond.
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