Nutria are rodents that resemble large rats and are often mistaken for muskrats or beavers. They are native to South America but also live in North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. They have been used for fur farming, and before the 1940s were sold as “weed cutters” to the public in the southeast. They live in underground burrows and can be very destructive. Their life span is less than three years in the wild. Their diet consists of river plants, roots, cattails, and garden vegetables when they can sneak them. Nutria consume 25% of their weight daily and prefer several small meals to one large meal. They can survive up to 29 days without food.
They have yellow-orange incisor teeth for gnawing and eating. Their webbed hind feet make them very good swimmers, and they can swim and eat vegetation at birth. A female nutria can give birth to one to thirteen babies, but the average is five. She can then breed again within two days of giving birth. The female’s mammary glands are located high on her side to allow the babies to nurse while swimming. Nutria have poor eyesight and sense danger primarily by their hearing. Their round tail can suffer from frostbite leading to infection or death.