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Saturday, November 16, 2013

New Varmint

Tomorrow I have a trip to the hardware store planned.  I have to get some two-by-fours and fence hangers to prop up the roof on Hensdeep anyway but at one point today I was coming back from giving the girls some lovely tidbits (slugs, I think) and I saw something crawling back under the fence from the herbs and hops bed. It moved very slowly because it was seriously s-q-u-e-e-e-e-e-zing itself back under the fence so I had time to notice its brindled coat, its long, rat-like tail, and its very bizarre hind foot.  It was pretty darn big, too. We've had problems with rats (Steve's executed six so far and has the trap set for tonight as well) but this was the size of a small dog. It was heftier than a cat. I stood there a minute and thought about it.  It wasn't an opossum; wrong color. It wasn't a beaver; wrong tail.  It wasn't a raccoon; wrong tail again. Definitely not a skunk.  I couldn't see over the fence, so I ran around to Larry's yard and looked over his back fence into our neighbor's yard.  I got a good look at it but nope; I definitely didn't know what it was.  So later when I looked it up (I love Google Images) this is what I discovered:

Credit: Conservation Management Institute
It was a nutria.  So, naturally I had to go look into nutria, because I don't know anything about them, other than their fur makes a good lining for a rain coat.  Nutria are from South America and were imported into Louisiana for fur farming in the 1930s, where naturally, they got out.  According to the USGS, this is where they live now:

How they got out of wet Louisiana and all the way up to the wet Pacific North West without really getting as established anywhere else is a good mystery.

According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, nutria are really bad about burrowing into hillsides which can damage roadbeds if they're dug in the right place.  I was unhappy to read that the next destructive habit listed is crop depredation, and they'll go after corn, sugar and table beets, wheat, oats, barley, melons, and a whole bunch of different garden vegetables.  I don't need lose any of my winter veg, but the next thing that I read is that nutria will girdle fruit, nut, deciduous and forest trees, and ornamental shrubs. They'll pretty much girdle indiscriminately.  But guess what? According to ODFW, nutria are unprotected!  In fact, they are an invasive species and are classified as an unprotected Non-game Wildlife and may be shot or trapped, but not relocated.  No license is needed for a landowner to control nutria on her property, and since I have numerous fruit and nut trees I don't want girdled, I am also buying a trap.  A gun would be a lot faster but I don't have a gun, and I couldn't shoot it within the city limits anyway.  So trap it is.

Not exactly what I planned on doing with my Sunday, but you do what you gotta do.  For all the wildlife we get in our back yard, we may as well be living in the country.  I paid the property tax bill this week as well, and between the uncontrolled wildlife and our uncontrollable city council, living in the country is looking better and better all the time.


macbew said...

Have you thought about seeing if there is anyone locally (or near enough) who can process the fur for you. Maybe you can get several (I don't know how large a skin you can get from one) and get a nice coat out of it for yourself and maybe enough for two?

Rachel said...

We have roof rats in Phoenix. they're so disgusting, it's almost enough to make me want to give up my garden. Two of them burrowed in one bed this summer, but we've killed 4 of them so far in traps.

Anonymous said...

Wow! That's bizarre! I was thinking it was just a muskrat!

jules said...

Ack, nutria. We gots 'em, down here in Lower Alabama. They dig out the banks of our canal. I hear they make a tasty roast, from an old cajun woman. They don't get on our main property, but I'd shoot them in a heartbeat if they did. And I'd even try a slow roasting.