Nutria eradication begins in Merced County

MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A nutria is a South American rodent that mysteriously showed up in the San Joaquin Valley last year.

The rodents were introduced and released into California in the early 1900's and used in the fur trade. In the 1970s, the State of California went to great lengths to eradicate the nutria because they were destroying everything.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is not taking the nutria problem lightly-- they are starting the eradication program in Merced County.

Biologists use live traps and sweet potatoes to capture the nutria. If other animals accidentally take the bait they are released.

Nutria can produce as many as 13 offspring every 130 days, and they eat a quarter of their body weight every day. Nutria have already spread in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay and in 2003 the problem got so bad that President Bush authorized $20-million to manage of the rodent.

Nutria numbers are growing along the San Joaquin River and the CDFW said If the rodent makes it into the delta, they may be impossible to manage.
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