Nutria (Myocastor coypus)

Throughout the Brazos River basin, wildlife can become troublesome pests creating a wide variety of problems and hassles.

Among them are Nutria or Myocastor coypus.

Weighing up to 22 pounds and living up to 10 years, these large semi-aquatic animals can swim underwater and are agile on land. Often mistaken for a beaver, the distinguishing characteristic between the two is the Nutria’s lack of the beaver’s trademark broad flat tail.

With large front teeth that are often yellow or brown, Nutria are, in fact, a large form of rodent and sport a tail similar to a rat.

The stocky, brown-furred rodents may inhabit a riverbank or dwell in wetlands. They are strong swimmers and can remain submerged for as long as five minutes, according to National Geographic.

Originally native to South America, Nutria, which have very few natural enemies, were brought to North America in the 1930s as part of the fur trade. Voracious herbivores, the animals have caused a great deal of damage to the natural aquatic and riparian vegetation, irrigation systems and riverbanks of the southern portion of the United States.

Nutria consume about three pounds of vegetation each night, killing off aquatic vegetation, causing erosion or loss of habitat for other species. Their burrowing can lead to erosion along rivers and to roads, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Nutria frequently feed on corn, vegetable crops, tree seedlings and ornamental shrubs. They also damage wood buildings, boat docks, earthen dams and other structures, according to Texas A&M University. However, their most significant damage is to sugarcane and rice fields in the Gulf Coast.

The estimated value of sugarcane and rice damaged by Nutria each year has ranged from several thousand dollars to over a million dollars, according to the Texas Invasive Species Institute.

Nutria control is best accomplished as soon as there is evidence of damage. Once nutria populations become established over a large area, control can be difficult. Learn more about control measures from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service here.