March 9, 2011
Nutria Videos Highlight Growing Problem
Tess McBride, (503) 231-6946
Officials hope to increase awareness of the invasive rodents
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today released two videos about the growing presence of non-native nutria in Oregon and Washington, two of 15 states with stable or increasing nutria populations.
The invasive mammals, native to South America, cause ecological damage and are potentially harmful to native wildlife and humans. The Service hopes individuals will educate themselves about nutria and other invasive species in order to preserve the Northwest's native plant and animal life.
The two videos highlight the Service's partnerships with Portland State University (PSU) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to learn more about the nutrias habits in urban areas and to spread awareness about the alarmingly fast-growing populations of these rodents. Nutria populations in Louisiana and Maryland are considered beyond eradication, which could potentially become a reality for Oregon and Washington if nothing is done to battle current populations. Under the right conditions, a breeding pair of nutria can lead to 16,000 offspring in three years.
"Nutria are symbolic of many aquatic invasive species, in that they're often out-of-sight, out-of-mind and even frequently mistaken as native wildlife," said Paul Heimowitz, the Service's Pacific Region Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator. "These videos not only help point out the problems nutria cause in the Northwest, they build awareness for the importance of preventing, detecting and controlling all invasive species."
While some people think nutria are 'cute,' native, and even feed them, Heimowitz said, they can be aggressive and carry a large number of diseases, pathogens and infections. The rodents over-graze wetland habitats, compete with native species, and can cause erosion by tunneling into stream banks. In the future, climate change could increase nutria populations, whose range is currently limited by cold winter temperatures.
In efforts to increase awareness about the nutria problem, the Service created a video that documents a 2010 visit to the Northwest by Pangolin Films to shoot material for a three-part National Geographic special titled Animal Invasions, which will air in April. The second video features a cooperative project with PSU and USGS to track nutria movement and activities through the use of radio telemetry devices in order to better understand how to manage populations.
The videos can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/usfws#p/c/00CA362652FF8AB3/0/dxWGHfeAEGI
Nutria Flickr photos available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwspacific/collections/72157626015605976/