Nippy the Nutria

By Tara and Ralph

On our tour of the Mississippi River we learned about the nutria rat. This species of rat was introduced to Louisiana for fur trade in the 19th century. The nutria were accidentally released into the wild when a hurricane destroyed their holding pens and the nutria escaped. They are now invasive to New Orleans and because there are so many of them negatively affecting the ecosystem, a law was placed to control the problem. When a rat is killed, the tail can be cut off and the hunter can get 5 dollars per tail as an incentive for hunting the rats.

The Captain shared this picture of his catch of invasive nutria .

Our tour guide recollected the time he captured one. While hunting the “nutra”-as he calls it, he ended up killing a mother nutria rat and one of its babies was left behind. He felt bad for the little critter, so he stuffed it in his boot, took it home, and nursed it to health with a milk. The rat he describes as friendly. It runs around the house and and answers to “Nippy” or “MAHHH!!”. He has the pet rat named Nippy to this day. Although he loves his pet rat, he still goes hunting for nutra and does his part to help decrease the nutra population, so that the ecosystem can get back into order.

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