The Washington Post

Maryland’s somewhat cute rodent problem

T-Boy, a six week old nutria, referred to by zookeepers as a cajun groundhog, comes out of his hole and looks for his shadow on a mini Mardi Gras float in New Orleans. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

Ever heard of nutria?

Me neither. It’s a rodent. Cute too, like a beaver.

Cute but problematic.

Nutria are an invasive species whose family roots are in South America, and they have apparently done great damage to Maryland’s wetlands, especially on the Eastern Shore.

How did they get to Maryland?

Blame the Feds. They introduced Nutria to Dorchester County in 1943, to “establish an experimental fur station,” according to the Chesapeake Bay Program. When the fur station went bust, the nutria escaped — crafty — and they’ve been hacking around with their yellow and orange teeth ever since, causing havoc.

Now the The Salisbury Times reports that after “more than 10 years of hunting and attempting to remove invasive populations of nutria throughout Maryland, one final push is being made to eradicate the species locally.”

The Maryland Nutria Project has snatched nutria from more than 150,000 acres in the state, according to the paper, and now federal officials are mobilizing to remove them along the Wicomico River.

Better catch ‘em fast. The paper says Nutria can “eat up to 25 percent of their body weight in plants and roots per day.” That’s a lot of greens, causing several million dollars a year in damage. They typically work at night.

Ever seen one?

Michael Rosenwald is a reporter on the Post's local enterprise team. He writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture.


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