There are over 20 million aquatic like rodents running around Louisiana’s wetlands causing havoc. These aquatic invasive species are known as Nutrias (Myocastor copus) and were first introduced in the early 1900s as a stimulant for the US fur trade. However, the fur trade died down and farmers were no longer able to take care of the nutrias. Therefore, the farmers opted to release the nutrias into the wild causing devastating consequences to not only Louisiana, but the 22 other Southern states nutrias now invade.
Nutrias cause six million dollars of agricultural damage each year. Their main food source are the high grasses of wetlands, which now are dwindling in number due to the appetites of the nutria. As a result, less tall grasses leave wetlands vulnerable to flooding and limits the diversity of species present. Over the years, these diverse species have become a spectacle for tourists. Yet, nutrias interference have caused a decrease in the 15 million dollar ecotourism industry and in return affect the economy of numerous southern states.
Unfortunately for those trying to control the nutrias, they are adaptable to numerous climates and are immune to various aquatic pollutants and toxics. These animals can have up to 13 off spring in one litter. “They can have up to 3 litters in one year,” says Ulises Munoz of Duke University. “The nutrias are multiplying at a faster rate then we can eradicate them.” The effects of this has created a crucial problem for southern states that is in route to become lethal.
Therefore, Munoz proposes to set up an after school program that will help eradicate the nutrias by taking advantage of the rich hunting culture in southern states.”Other eradication methods are in place, yet hunting has been the most effective when incentives are involved.” By providing a gun, hunting clothing, and waiving the hunting license fee, Munoz is enthusiastic that his program will greatly contribute to the decline in nutria.
In addition, Munoz is comparing his program to other extracurricular activities such as soccer or dance. Like these activities, Munoz’s program would promote afterschool activity, stimulate exercise activity, and potentially keep teenagers out of trouble on the streets. Munoz has not only created an incentive for participating in the extracurricular program, but also to get good grades. “Of course, good academics would be necessary. You can’t just hand any one a gun.” Further, Munoz comments that an added bonus will be a healthier economy.
To test the effectiveness of this eradication method, Munoz plans to set up an extracurricular hunting program in Louisiana, where the hunting age is 16. He then plans to compare the results in this region to a region that is similar to Louisiana’s climate, hunting culture, and nutria problem. Munoz will measure and record the population trends of both regions and survey the participating teenagers in their knowledge of aquatic invasive species compared to those who aren’t in the program.
Munoz is very optimistic about his eradication program. In fact, he feels that within a matter of years the nutria population will drastically decrease. Only time will tell, yet in the meantime Munoz is satisfied with the amount of awareness his program will raise. “The most important part of my program will be that students will know about aquatic invasive species. It is crucial to know how damaging aquatic invasive species can be to an economy and environment. My program will bring awareness.”