Nutria Life

Nutrias have evolved so that their eyes, ears, and even nostrils are close to the top of their heads. Why? So that these cat-sized rodents can easily swim through waterways in wetlands as they search for the best water reeds to chew. Like furry submarines that have surfaced, they create calm ripples as they swim up and down the channels. Even nutria babies can swim soon after birth, and the animals can stay underwater up to five minutes.

A nutria in a wetland habitat: Notice the position of its eyes and ears, taken by Sherry Smith, Ridgefield, WA, 10/2016

They make nests or burrows not far from the water's edge. Their habitats are wetlands, lakes, or other areas of freshwater.

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A Quest to Find Nutrias

I found nutrias easy to find in the wildlife preserves in Ridgefield, Washington. Whether grooming on the bank of a waterway or cruising along, they were easy to spot. I later read that nutrias prefer to find food at midnight-- foraging during the day only if plants they like are scarce.

As I read more, I found out that nutrias are not native to the United States, and they have no natural predators. They can easily overpopulate a habitat and eat too many plants--ripping them out at the roots. I probably observed evidence of this: many nutrias forced to try to find scare plants during the day. Migrating birds compete for these same plants. There aren't easy answers, and some want to use humane, live traps.