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Nutria is a medium sized semi-aquatic rodent native to South America. A nutria can grow up to 40 inches from its nose to the tip of its rat-like tail. It weighs an average of 12 pounds, although some may reach up to 40 pounds. It is an herbivore and varies in color from dark brown to yellowish brown and occasionally white.
Nutria were introduced into Washington for the fur-farming industry in the 1930’s. By 1943, there were feral populations. The nutria is a prolific breeder, capable of producing two litters a year. Populations are spreading rapidly throughout Washington.
Nutria are active year-round. Although they can be seen at any time, they are most active at twilight and throughout the night. They may be seen feeding during the day when food is scarce, or basking in the sun when temperatures are low.
A nutria consumes 25% of its body weight each day. Because it eats roots and stems, it can destroy ten times more plant matter than it eats. Nutria are known to destroy wetlands and marshes, and turn shoreline areas into muddy bogs. They host a variety of parasites and pathogens and, when cornered or captured, nutria are aggressive and can inflict serious injury to people and pets.