Understanding Nutria in the Pacific Northwest: Habits, Risks, and Control Tips

What Are Nutria? Characteristics and Identification

Nutria, often spotted near water bodies in the Pacific Northwest, are distinguishable by their dark fur and bright yellow-orange incisors. Weighing between 12-20 lbs and growing up to 24 inches, they are larger than muskrats but smaller than beavers. Their dense undercoat and glossy brown outer fur protect them in aquatic environments. Recognize Nutria by their long tails and hind legs that are longer than their front legs, making them efficient swimmers.

Where Do Nutria Live?

If you’ve seen Nutria, then you have most likely seen them somewhere close to a natural waterway. They prefer wetlands or swamps but where most people actively see them is in ponds, rivers, lakes, streams or even drainage canals. Once they decide upon their territory they will stay within that area but if something forces them out, they are known to travel as far as necessary to acquire a new place to live. One of the reasons they live along waterways is because they burrow when temperatures become unsuitable. Dense vegetation provides natural cover and even warmth as they build their tunnel system just above the water line. Nutria have tunnel systems that can be quite intricate and it allows for them to have easy access to their food source, vegetation.

Nutria in the Pacific Northwest

Are Nutria Invasive?

Nutria’s first introduction to the U.S. was in 1899 when they were brought over from South America for the purposes of fur farming. The furs of Nurtria were easier to farm than those of the Beaver so Nutria were seen as an economic commodity. Because of accidental escapes as well as being intentionally let go in the wild, Nutria began to build habitats within certain parts of the U.S. with the Pacific Northwest being one of those areas. In some regards, the growing population of Nutria has been limited in this area because the cooler winter temperatures do not allow them to thrive and rapidly reproduce. When freezing temps arrive, Nutria have an 80-90% death rate. If the Pacific Northwest was known for warmer weather, this species would be able to reproduce exponentially and be much more invasive than they already are. As of now, the greatest impact this species has on the Pacific NW area is their tunneling system. Between the numerous tunnels they build and the constant rainfall in this area, it is very common for wet ground to weaken and eventually collapse; impacting roadways, dams, levees, buildings, lawns and water banks. With vegetation being their food source, they are also known to cause a significant amount of damage to crops and aquatic vegetation. Luckily, preventative and eradication strategies have been implemented to deal with the invasiveness of these critters.

Do I Need To Worry If Nutria Live Nearby?

It may seem as if Nutria are harmless to the everyday person but they can actually be quite aggressive when they feel threatened. As with most critters, if Nutria feel trapped by people or pets they will protect themselves which can be unfortunate for the one being inflicted with their aggressive behavior. Outside of any possible attack, Nutria are also known to carry a variety of diseases that are both harmful to pets and to people. Rabies, Salmonellosis, Paratyphoid and Leptospirosis are just some of the diseases known to these wildlife animals. It is always a good idea to stay clear of any contact with Nutria. Having those who are skilled in dealing with wildlife is your best option in dealing with this species. If you find that the area you live in seems to attract Nutria, it may be worth your time to plow your land of any burrow systems and eliminate areas that would attract this species. Brush, thickets, overgrown weeds and anything near a water source that could provide them a food source or shelter is worth getting rid of in order to keep Nurtria away.

Effective Nutria Control Methods

Managing Nutria populations requires a combination of methods. Habitat modification, trapping, and exclusion are common strategies. Preventative measures include reinforcing riverbanks and using fencing to protect crops and property. Consulting with wildlife control professionals ensures the most effective and humane approaches.

In short, Nutria may be an overlooked pest but in the right circumstances they can be more invasive and problematic than once believed. For those facing issues with these pests, getting to know the Pacific NW’s Nutria is one step in the right direction of eliminating your problem and preventing further issues. Contact your local pest control company to learn more about how you can safely deal with Nutria in the wild.

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