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Louisiana Is Shrinking, Thanks to Giant Swamp Rats
Beaver-like creatures behind vast erosion
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted May 9, 2013 9:16 AM CDT
T-Boy, a six week old nutria, comes out of his hole and looks for his shadow at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

(Newser) – When it comes to invasive species, Louisiana may have Florida and its giant snails beat: The state's beloved swampland is literally vanishing at the hands of gigantic swamp rats. Nutria—described by a documentarian tracking the creatures as "a cross between a beaver and a New York sewer rat"—are booming in the area, and they're partly to blame for heavy coastal erosion. They devour the plants needed to hold down the soil, and with some 5 million of them now inhabiting Louisiana's southern coast, they're contributing to a rate of soil erosion pegged at 40 square miles a year, Chris Metzier tells Take Part.

The 20-pound animals, which are the subject of Metzier's upcoming Rodents of Unusual Size, are native to Argentina but were delivered to Louisiana about eight decades ago to be raised for their fur. "One way or another, they escaped into the swamps and have just gone crazy," says Metzier. So what can be done? Some have tried to popularize eating nutria, and Metzier himself has tried nutria jerky and jambalaya and deemed it "quite tasty." Unfortunately, most people can't get over the knowledge that they're eating swamp rat. A potentially better option: nutria fur, which is being plugged as less cruel and more sustainable, since the animals must be killed as an invasive species anyway. Says Metzier, "It's really taken off in Brooklyn."

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Showing 3 of 29 comments
Doug
Dec 29, 2014 11:50 AM CST
I know people who won't eat squirrel because someone called them a wood rat!! now days with all the posted signs due to going to closed hunting clubs and idiots knocking out all the hunting spots that were free for anyone to go into there are way less hunters out now so the kids aren't being brought up eating the things. same goes for the nutria, hunting clubs have almost everyone shut out from trapping the things. as for damage, I have seen first hand some of it.
Scott Dakers
Dec 21, 2014 11:31 AM CST
Call them weed rats. Sell them to Shrek fans. Delicious roasted on an open fire.
HMD-SMD-ITY
May 12, 2013 12:05 AM CDT
You need a much more tasty trade name like Tilapia. How about water squirrel.