They can be up to two feet long and weigh up to 18 pounds. They have fang-like teeth and resemble rats. They’re nutria, and they’ve been found in Delaware for the first time since 2002.
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources says the presence of an invasive nutria population has been confirmed at a pond south of Marydel, Kent County. The destructive feeding habits of nutria have resulted in tens of thousands of acres of marsh lost to erosion throughout the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and officials are hoping to contain the threat.
“The destruction that nutria have caused in the Chesapeake Watershed is tremendous,” DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife Biologist Joe Rogerson said. “The Division of Fish and Wildlife is committed to ensuring similar destruction does not occur in Delaware.”
The state plans to work with the US Department of Agriculture wildlife division and the US Fish and Wildlife Service on a “scientifically acceptable and appropriate removal strategy.” The effort is focusing on the headwaters of several rivers that feed into the Chesapeake Bay.
Nutria are semi-aquatic rodents native to South America. The population regionally was established in the 1940s when nutria either escaped or were intentionally released from fur farms. There have been isolated sitings of nutria, but the Marydel discovery is the first confirmed population in Delaware since the USDA field team began operations ten years ago.
According to DNREC, a landowner adjacent to the Marydel pond reported that a family member had seen several nutria over the past three years, but was not aware of how to identify the creature.
Anyone who believes he or she has spotted nutria may call a special hotline, 1-877-463-6497.
DNREC released the following video with more information about the nutria invasion: