California

The state of California regrets to inform you that you can’t keep beagle-sized rodents as pets

How to tell an invasive swamp rodent from other California critters

An infestation of nutria, an invasive swamp rodent, was recently found in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. See how to identify them and report sightings.
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An infestation of nutria, an invasive swamp rodent, was recently found in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. See how to identify them and report sightings.

Nutria, a giant invasive rodent originally from South America, might be the size of a beagle, but unlike a beagle you can’t keep them in your home.

The California Fish and Game Commission is looking to correct a gap in the law that restricts what pets may lawfully be owned by including nutria among the list.

“Nutria affect the state’s wildlife by damaging wetland habitats, and put waterways, water supplies, water conveyance and flood protection infrastructure, and agriculture at risk from damage through their burrowing and herbivory of aquatic vegetation,” according to the commission.

California is currently embarked on a $2 million plan to eradicate the giant rodent from the San Joaquin River Delta. State biologists have trapped hundreds of the orange-toothed critters in Merced County alone, and also found them in San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tuolomne and Fresno counties.

Nutria live up to 10 years in the wild, growing up to 22 pounds and up to 25 inches (more than 2 feet) long, according to National Geographic.

Nutria are capable of explosive population growth, giving birth to litters of up to 12 and capable of becoming pregnant again within 48 hours of doing so. They eat nearly all vegetation and are capable of rapidly spreading out across a geographic area.

According to state estimates, there could be nearly a quarter million of the rodents in California within five years if they are not eradicated.

The invasive rodents also have been found in Oregon, Louisiana and Maryland.

The commission is expected to hold a hearing on the topic of banning nutria as pets at a meeting in December.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
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