Nutria (Coypu)


Myocastor coypus
Echimyidae (spiny rats) or Myocastoridae (nutrias) in the order Rodentia

A robust, semiaquatic rodent with a large head, small ears, small front legs having feet with unwebbed toes, large hind legs having feet with webbing between the first 4 toes, and a round tail. The tail is 12-18 inches in length, is scaly and scantily haired. The general body color is brownish.

Similar species: The nutria somewhat resembles a large muskrat or a small beaver but can easily be distinguished by the round tail (the muskrat's is vertically flattened; the beaver's is horizontally flattened). The tail shape is difficult to see when the animal is swimming.

Total length: 30-42 inches (tip of nose to end of tail); weight: 15-25 pounds.
Habitat and conservation: 
Wetlands and marshes. Nutria cannot tolerate particularly cold winters, so they will probably not establish large populations in Missouri. They have been introduced globally for fur and for meat, but neither enterprise seems commercially viable. Where nutria establish large populations, they usually become pests, destroying wetlands, wrecking irrigation systems, gnawing on human property and displacing native species.
These herbivores feed heavily on aquatic plants. It has been noted that in captivity, the nutria's food consumption is so great that keeping them fed them causes a nutria-farming operation to be unprofitable.
Distribution in Missouri: 
In Missouri, the nutria has been occasionally trapped in the southeastern part of the state. It was first reported in Missouri in 1943.
Native to South America, the nutria was brought to the U.S. and other countries for the fur market and have been raised in captivity and have been released or escaped into the wild. Where they have no predators, nutria can overgraze wetlands, exposing their fragile organic soils. In the U.S., they are most numerous, and problematic, in the marshes of Louisiana, Maryland and Oregon.
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