The nutria is a semi-aquatic rodent from South America that has earned a name as one of the worst mammalian invasive species. It was initially brought to the U.S. for weed control and for its valuable fur, and it is these traits that have made it so troublesome in the southern swampland. Its voracious grazing can destroy huge amounts of the vegetation that keeps the marsh habitat from eroding or flooding. While the demand for fur initially kept the population stable, it also prevented any government control of the rodent. When the fur industry crashed in the eighties, the nutria multiplied and started causing severe damage to the Louisiana Delta.
Around the turn of the century state and federal governments put a combined effort into stopping the nutria, and they have lowered its effect considerably. The Louisiana Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that about two thousand acres were destroyed by nutria in 2010, compared to over twenty thousand in 2003. The most popular method of containment is the incentive payment (a bounty). Nutria currently fetch five dollars per tail (2), an enticing addition to the value of their fur. As a result, almost four hundred thousand nutria were trapped in 2010 alone.
I am glad to find that at least one invasive species is under relative control. I am also amused that the Louisiana Wildlife Service has proposed several nutria dishes as an incentive to hunt. I wonder how they handle North American predators: you would think that alligators and eagles in particular would find the large, furry swimmers easy prey.