Nutria Team Prepares for the Final Push
Nutria are South American semi-aquatic rodents similar to our native muskrat and beaver. Maryland’s nutria population was established when nutria escaped or were intentionally released from fur farms. The nutria’s destructive feeding habits have resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of acres of marsh to erosion throughout the Chesapeake Bay.
In 2002, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and private landowners to determine if nutria can be eradicated from the Delmarva Peninsula.
The nutria eradication team spent 8 years developing trapping strategies to eliminate this destructive invasive animal. More than 13,500 nutria were removed from nearly 160,000 acres of marshes.
Today Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, the core of the nutria infestation, is virtually nutria free. Wildlife specialists have spent the last two years searching high and low for any remaining populations of nutria on the Delmarva Peninsula.
The team covered coastal waterways and marsh and investigated reports from trappers, hunters, landowners and outdoor enthusiasts. The team has concluded that remaining nutria populations on Delmarva Peninsula are confined to Maryland's Lower Shore in Wicomico and Somerset counties.
Now the team is gearing up to apply the very successful methods used at Blackwater to the remaining populations on the Eastern Shore. Beginning in the Pocomoke River, the team will work northward, watershed by watershed, as nutria are removed. Trapping nutria is relatively easy, particularly where they are abundant, but as populations are driven to super low densities, finding ways to reliably detect nutria has taken on increasing importance
Trail cameras, floating wooden platforms serving as nutria resting sites, hair snares, and scent –based lures are just some of the innovative ways that remaining nutria are being detected.
Landowners play an increasingly important role. More than half of the nutria captured to date, and most of the remaining populations occur on private lands. With written permission from landowners, the team can protect Delmarva landscapes from nutria damage. Project staff will be reaching out by mail and in person to landowners of wetland habitats along the rivers and shores.
For the latest update on this effort check out the Nutria News or go to the Chesapeake Bay Nutria Eradication Project website