5 Facts About Nutria, the Rodent Taking over Louisiana


Their name may sound like a new kind of protein bar, but Nutria are actually big rodents that like to hang out where it’s warm and wet. They hail from South America but have gained a foothold in the U.S., particularly in Louisiana. Nutria can grow to be 20 pounds, they can swim, and they are currently wreaking havoc by disrupting ecosystems, infrastructure, and crops.

Read on to learn more about these invasive animals and check out the upcoming documentary Rodents of Unusual Size.

1. They’re widespread

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Nutria are originally from South America, but they have spread out around the globe over the last 100 years. Some states originally imported nutria to help fight weeds, but the wild population has since ballooned out of control. Nutria have been named one of the top 100 most invasive species.

2. They reproduce A LOT

Nutria multiply rapidly, making them a huge threat to the lands they occupy.

They become sexually mature at only a few months old, and can reproduce up to 3 times a year, sometimes having litters of up to 13 babies.

Their lifespan in the wild is between 3-6 years.

3. They’re really bad for the ecosystem

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

Nutria can consume up to 20 percent of their body weight. They eat tons of vegetation that holds wetland soil together, which can lead to erosion, turning the wetlands into open water. Of course this often leads to flooding, especially in places like Louisiana.

Nutria also eat crops like sugarcane and rice, and they do major damage to golf courses, bridges, canals, and levees.

4. Nutria used to be big business

They originally spread around the globe as part of the fur trade, and were brought to Louisiana in the 1930s to be raised for their pelts. But some were released or escaped, and as a result, wild nutria flourished along the Gulf Coast.

Eventually, the overabundance of nutria led to a falling demand for nutria pelts.

Without trappers to keep the wild nutria population in check, their numbers exploded.

5. You can eat them!

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Yes, you can have a nutria dinner if you wish.

Susan Spicer, a chef in New Orleans, says,

“The nutria flavor is sort of like the zucchini of the animal world. You can kind of make it work with a lot of different kinds of flavors.”

The meat is pretty lean too, so you can say you’re being healthy.

Plus if you eat them, you’ll be doing the environment a favor!