Photo: A nutria among aquatic plants

A large South American rodent, the nutria has been imported into many countries by entrepreneurs hoping to sell its fur.

Photograph by Robert Caputo

Map

Map: Nutria range

Nutria Range

Fast Facts

Type:
Mammal
Diet:
Omnivore
Average life span in the wild:
8 to 10 years
Size:
Head and body, 17 to 25 in (43 to 64 cm); tail, 10 to 16 in (25 to 41 cm)
Weight:
15 to 22 lbs (7 to 10 kg)
Group name:
Colony
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Nutria compared with adult man

Nutria are large, web-footed rodents that are more agile in the water than on land. They live in burrows, or nests, never far from the water. Nutria may inhabit a riverbank or lakeshore, or dwell in the midst of wetlands. They are strong swimmers and can remain submerged for as long as five minutes.

Nutria (also called coypu) are varied eaters, most fond of aquatic plants and roots. They also feast on small creatures such as snails or mussels.

Nutria can be rather social animals and sometimes live in large colonies, reproducing prolifically. Females have two or three litters every year, each consisting of five to seven young. These animals mature quickly and remain with their mothers for only a month or two. In some areas, booming nutria populations have become troublesome as the animals develop a taste for farm fare.

The nutria's yellow or brown outer hair looks shaggy and unappealing, but it covers a lush fur undercoat, also called nutria, that is popular for use in clothing. Nutria are farmed and trapped for this fur.

Nutria once lived only in southern South America, but they have been domesticated as fur animals and transplanted around the world. In many areas, including Canada and more than a dozen U.S. states, fur farm escapees quickly establish large wild populations near their new homes.

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