Photo Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Myocastor Coypus
OTHER NAMES: Coypee, Swamp Beaver, Rat, Nutria Rat.
DESCRIPTION: A semi-aquatic rodent introduced from South America along the
An interesting physical feature that nutria possesses is that their mammary glands are located along the sides of the back. This enables the young to nurse even when their mother is swimming about.
DISTRIBUTION: One of the most widely distributed species along the coastal regions of the southeast. Historical records indicate that they were introduced into the Mobile Delta marshes of
HABITAT: Similar to beavers including coastal swamps, brackish marshes, rivers, streams, back waters and ponds. These animals dig burrows for den sites in levees or stream banks. In swamp and marsh areas they feed and rest on platforms of vegetation built above the water.
FEEDING HABITS: Similar to muskrat. Vegetation such as cattails, sedges, bulrush, reeds, roots and foliage of plants which are found in marshland habitat, are all consumed. Feeding habits vary considerably. They feed while in the water on floating objects or on land. In fact, nutria have been known to graze on grass like cattle and feed on upright plants like rabbits. They prefer the soft succulent parts near the base of plants and can live almost entirely on grasses such as Bermuda grass or on water plants such as duckweed.
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: Prolific furbearers, nutria become sexually mature at approximately eight to nine months of age and breed throughout the year. They do not mate for life; a female may breed with several males. Nutria will breed in and out of water. Under good conditions, they have a high reproductive rate. A female can produce two litters per year. After a gestation period of approximately 130 days, a litter of one to nine pups is born, with an average size of five. The young are born fully furred and with their eyes open. The young are weaned at approximately 5 to 7 weeks of age.
Nutria do not appear to be especially aggressive or wary. When disturbed they tend to flee instead of fight. Nutria feed and are most active at night, but will periodically feed during the daylight hours, depending on the availability of food.
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Author: Mike Sievering