They’re big, furry and could destroy the Delta. California has a $2 million plan to kill them

The Sacramento Bee –

California’s San Joaquin River Delta is in danger of being overrun by voracious beagle-sized rodents. The state has a plan to deal with them, but it’s going to take a lot of time and money.

Nutria, a large South American rodent, have become an invasive species in several states, including Louisiana, Maryland and Oregon. In March 2017, they were found in Merced County, alarming California wildlife officials because of the rodents’ potential to harm the water infrastructure that nourishes San Joaquin Valley farms and delivers water to thirsty cities.

Nutria can give birth to litters up to 12, and become pregnant again within 48 hours of doing so. They live in marshland and feed heavily on vegetation. Where they appear, ecological calamity follows, according to the state.

“Based on what is known about nutria and their current reproductive rate and distribution, without immediate action, nutria will rapidly expand their numbers and geographic presence and cause extensive damage to wetlands, riparian habitat, restoration projects, levees, water conveyance and flood-protection infrastructure, and agriculture,” according to a memo from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.