There’s no certain answer as to how the nutria population re-emerged after being declared eradicated in California decades ago but the population is spreading and causing serious concern. The Department of Fish and Wildlife was recently awarded $10 million to wipe out the large, invasive rodents and that effort is now well underway.
“There are amazing little wetlands scattered throughout the state that people have no idea are even present,” says Greg Gerstenberg, senior wildlife biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “That’s exactly where they thrive.”
On the eastern side of the Central Valley, in small wetland jungles, you will find nutria ground zero.
“This is where we’ve taken more nutria than any other county in California,” says Peter Tira, also with the department. Slogging through the marsh makes it immediately evident how tough it will be to eliminate something that thrives here.
“There’s nothing quick about eradicating nutria,” Tira explains. “There’s nothing easy about it. You can see that first hand sloshing through the marsh and checking traps.”
“Last year we pulled almost 90 nutria out of this wetland,” says Sean McCain, checking one of the traps.