City Cast

Urban Almanac: Nutria

Rachel Monahan
Posted on May 18   |   Updated on June 6
nutria in grass

A nutria was spotted in a grassy Oregon field. (Getty Images/Craig Hanson/500px)

The nutria has a rat-like tail but, like beavers, lives in and around waterways. From afar, it’s a lookalike to that native species.

You’re probably wondering, how did they get here? The nutria, native to South America, arrived in Oregon in the 1930s because of the fur trade. But by the 1940s, that nutria fur trade went bust; nobody wanted the furs. That meant thousands of animals were released into the Oregon wild.

They prospered and wreaked havoc on the environment and crops.

Their burrows along rivers cause erosion. They have been known to chow down on a long list of crops, including corn, beets, alfalfa, wheat, barley, oats, and various melons, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

nutria in water with plants

Nutria leaves the water at a Portland park. (Getty Images/John C Magee)

Under Oregon’s administrative rules, no one can import nutria into the state. That hasn’t helped much, though, as the state’s nutria population has thrived.

For farmers and gardeners looking to get rid of the pests, the state recommends trapping and shooting them, though shooting a nutria within city limits is forbidden for obvious reasons. Relocating the rodents is also forbidden. And watch out: state officials say they can be aggressive when trapped.

Nonetheless, among Portland's many animal lovers, they have the occasional fan.

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