Science

Americans are losing their minds over a 20-pound rodent

Nutria are chomping up parts of California and Louisiana -- humans have some bizarre ways of dealing with them.

Flickr / michele_hayslett

If it’s hard to imagine a herd of feral hogs rampaging through your yard, consider if it were a hoard of 20-pound rodents instead. Oh yes.

Nutria spell trouble for farms and wetlands throughout the United States. Not only are they essentially giant rats, they’re hungry boys, chomping down on roots, tubers, shoots, and leaves of as many marsh plants as they can find. But they aren’t picky. They’ll also eat up crops like corn, soybeans, and clover. And when we say they like to eat, we mean it: Nutria eat up to a quarter of their own body weight every day.

This is #19 on Inverse’s 20 most incredible stories about our planet from 2019.

The rodents also reproduce like nobody’s business. They are an invasive species with all the attributes they need to be just plain hard to get rid of. So to get a handle on these huge rodents, people have come up with some rather unusual solutions.

Here are three of the most creative:

Nutria a la chef

Nutria are abundant in areas of Louisiana, and people gotta eat. Now, people have dreamt up ways to cook and eat nutria for decades. But the recent abundance of nutria is spurring people’s culinary creativity. It’s getting fancy.

In a documentary that aired in January 2019 on PBS, local New Orleans celebrities like musician Kermit Ruffins and chef Susan Spicer demonstrated their favorite ways to cook nutria. Nutria sausage, gumbo, and hot tamales have all found found their way into recipe repertoires. Chef kiss!

Rodent rodeo

Teens in Louisiana are an innovative bunch: When not chowing down on nutria tamales, they know that when it comes to nutria, there’s fun to be had. Way back in 2011, a group of high schoolers hosted the Sassafras Nutria Rodeo to “bring youth together in the restoration and preservation of Louisiana.”

It also gave hunters a chance to showcase their kills and compete for the biggest rodent. Hundreds of people attended, and families posed for photos with nutria. At least one giant nutria clocked in at 18.5 pounds — that’s about the same as a toddler.

While they took center stage, nutria had to share the spotlight with a few other invasive species: Also featured were feral swine, Asian carp, and coyotes.

Carcass goes to Congress

One way to make the point to your fellow Congresspeople that nutria are, in fact, an issue in your state is to bring a dead one to work. That’s what California Representative Josh Harder did in September 2019.

California Rep. Josh Harder tweeted this photo, saying, "Did you know today is 'bring your swamp rat to work day?'"@RepJoshHarder on Twitter

Nellie, as Harder called the stuffed rodent, seems to be professional taxidermied, as the rookie Congressman explained in a video he tweeted.

“Nutria can destroy crops, they destroy almond trees, as well as irrigation canals,” Harder tells Congress in the video. “We have to stop the swamp rat invasion before it gets out of control.”

As 2019 draws to a close, Inverse is revisiting the year’s 20 most incredible stories about our planet. Some are gross, some are fascinating, and others truly are incredible. This has been #19. Read the original article here.

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