About nutria and their control

Resource Publication 86




Wild animals are generally classed as beneficial or pest species, depending on the variable interests of man. Those that provide him with earnings, recreation, or enjoyment are considered beneficial; those that compete with him for food, or ruin his possessions or environment, are quickly dubbed pests. But all men do not have the same interests or the same environment, so many animals attain both a beneficial and a pest status.

The wild nutria in the United States is one of these animals with a dual nature. It is most numerous in the Gulf States, particularly in Louisiana and Texas, where the sale of nutria fur and meat in some years is a several-million-dollar industry. Although it is a valuable resource, it sometimes causes so much agricultural damage that it is also classified as a pest.

In the late 1950's, nutria damage to sugarcane and rice became so acute that the people of Louisiana and Texas asked the Federal Government for help. Research on the problem was assigned to the Division of Wildlife Research, Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, which is responsible, among other things, for developing methods to control damage by wild animals. The Division's Denver Wildlife Research Center established field stations at Houma, Louisiana, and Beaumont, Texas, and in 1963 work was begun under congressional appropriation to fulfill this public request.

The goal of the Houma and Beaumont stations was to develop a sound, scientific solution to the problem of controlling nutria damage. IT WAS NOT A PROGRAM OF ERADICATION. Because of the involvement of the fur and meat industry, the beneficial aspects of nutria had to be continuously recognized when potential methods of control were evaluated. Especially sought were workable control procedures that could be readily used by laymen. These would have to be relatively selective for nutria and safe for humans, domestic animals, and other wildlife. In 1967, four years after our studies were begun, we had found methods to solve the current and immediately foreseeable problems of nutria damage.

This report presents much of the information we gathered during this four-year period about nutria and how to control them. Because it is meant primarily for the general public, it omits the specific references to the scientific literature that pepper most technical reports, but it does present background information on the history, biology, and behavior of nutria, particularly those in the Gulf Coast Region. The control methods presented, when used as directed, are safe and effective and provide solutions for most situations, including those where people want to alleviate nutria damage without killing the nutria. Though we were pleased with these results, research still continues, directed toward discovering new and better methods of control that will solve any future problem with nutria.

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Federal Government Series
About nutria and their control
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Resource Publication
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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
vi, 65 p.
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