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Natural Highlights: Nutria

   Nutria             Muskrat

National Invasive Species Awareness Week (Feb. 21-27) provides an opportunity to discuss the nutria or coypu (Myocaster coypus) , an invasive semi-aquatic rodent which resembles a muskrat. Native to southern South America and introduced onto fur farms in Louisiana in the 1930's, nutria eventually escaped from captivity and became established in wetlands of the Southeast. They have now spread to most states in the U.S. and are well established in West Tennessee, including the Wolf River. They are prolific breeders; females can produce two litters of 4-5 young each year (though they can have as many as 13!), and they are sexually mature as early as 3 months of age. Nutria compete with our native muskrats and beavers for food and space, and they can also be very destructive, burrowing into the banks of levees and dams, and destroying both crops and wetland vegetation.

Nutria are frequently seen in the Wolf River, including in fill ponds along the Wolf River Greenway.  Seen swimming in the distance, they can easily be confused with muskrats and beavers.  Nutria are larger than muskrats but smaller than beavers, and have seemingly outsized and protruding orange incisors.  Muskrats have a uniquely vertically flattened tail and beavers' tails, of course, are broad and flat. Both muskrats and beavers have hairless tails.  The tail of the nutria, on the other hand, is round and partially furred.

Visit the following links for more information on nutria:

Louisiana Dept. of Fisheries and Wildlife

National Invasive Species Information Center

Tennessee Watchable Wildlife

For more information on our native muskrats, follow this link.

Posted by Cathy Justis at 7:38 PM