The Modesto Bee –
A California Democrat trying to eradicate invasive swamp rats from his state highly recommends using an animal carcass to get action in a typically deadlocked Congress.
Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, again hauled the large, stuffed rodent — which Harder’s spokesman has affectionately named “Nellie” — onto the House floor Wednesday before the House unanimously approved his bill granting millions of dollars to California officials trying to eliminate nutria from California.
“Especially on agriculture issues, the biggest problem we have in Congress is getting awareness and understanding, so Nellie has been a great spokesperson,” Harder said. “Having something people can see and look at and know the scale of the problem is hugely helpful.”
Nutria, large rodents native to South America, were found in Merced County two years ago, alarming California wildlife officials because of their potential to harm infrastructure that moves waters to Central Valley farms and Southern California cities.
Nutria can grow as large as a beagle, devour up to 25 percent of their body weight daily and have up to 200 offspring per year. Without help, officials have estimated there could be a quarter million nutria in California destroying wetlands and waterways by 2025.
Nearly a thousand nutria have been eradicated in California so far, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The vast majority of those have been in Merced County, with smaller numbers occuring in San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Mariposa and Fresno Counties.