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Controlling Nutria A Widespread Effort In State
California Outdoors
Nutria in Merced County, one of several areas of the state dealing with the rodents. CDFW File Photo

Why No Bounty Program?

Question: I’ve been following the effort to eradicate invasive nutria from California. Why not let the state’s hunters and trappers help by offering a bounty on nutria? Louisiana pays $5 for every nutria tail hunters and trappers turn in. Surely, California could use the help and a bounty program might be more cost-effective than paying full-time salaried biologists and professional trappers to do all the work. (Simon)

Answer: It’s a fair question, and one we are asked frequently. There are several issues preventing the state from offering a bounty on nutria. First and foremost, it’s illegal. California Fish and Game Code, section 2019 clearly states: “It is unlawful for any person, including state, federal, county and city officials or their agents, to authorize, offer or pay a bounty for any bird or mammal.” It would take state legislation to change the code and provide an exception for nutria.

Aside from the laws, bounty programs are not a strategy for eradication. They are an incentive to generate help with controlling a population and, particularly in the case of nutria, reduce the damage they cause.

California is in a very different situation than Louisiana, which has millions of nutria and no hope of eradicating them. Louisiana’s bounty program is a tool to help control the population and reduce the area of coastal and wetland acreage lost to nutria damage each year. For the last 12 years, Louisiana’s bounty program has seen average harvests of more than 330,000 nutria per year – just to control the population. Furthermore, a bounty program in California might incentivize someone to breed nutria for the bounty, perhaps release captive animals or relocate them to other parts of the state.

Eradication is a very different goal than control. CDFW biologists need to account for every single animal to determine the extent of the infestation, status of breeding populations, and to ultimately succeed in permanently removing nutria from the state. That is why it’s so critical to the state’s eradication efforts that any suspected nutria – alive or dead – be reported promptly to CDFW at (866) 440-9530 or Accompanying photos or videos are especially helpful.

Another complicating factor is that nutria look like and are often confused with other species of native wildlife that occupy the same kind of wetland habitat, including muskrats, beavers, river otters and even rats. A bounty program would likely result in the killing of a lot of other wildlife mistaken for nutria.

Even without a bounty program, nutria can be taken legally by licensed hunters and trappers as a rodent and nongame mammal (CCR Title 14, section 472). Again, hunters need to be careful not to mistake other wildlife for nutria. These other species may be protected or may have hunting seasons and bag limits governing their take. Nutria identification resources are available at CDFW’s nutria webpage. Property owners, their employees and representatives can take nutria at any time and by any legal means to protect their property without a hunting or trapping license (FGC, section 4152).


Mudsucker bag limits?

Question: I like to catch mudsuckers for eating but can’t figure out if they have a bag limit. I’ve met one or two people telling me there is a bag limit but the regulations book does not state anything. Can you please let me know? (Truong An)

Answer: While some species have fishing regulations that pertain only to them (for example, rockfish and salmon), some species do not. Marine fish species for which there are no specific regulations, such as longjaw mudsuckers, are covered under the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.60 (see page 33 of the current Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet). The daily bag limit for species covered by subsection 27.60(a) is 10 fish of any one species, with a total daily bag limit of 20 fish. This means you can take up to 10 longjaw mudsuckers and 10 other fish as well, per day, for a total of 20 fish.

Fish that fall under section 27.60 have no closed fishing seasons (open year-round) or size limits. You can find regulations that pertain to longjaw mudsuckers by using the table at the back of the regulations booklet (page 103).

Regulation booklets are available wherever sport fishing licenses are sold, at your local CDFW office and online.


California Outdoors is a column published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to answer your questions about California’s many fish and wildlife species, hunting and fishing methods, regulations and opportunities and natural resource conservation. If you have a question you would like to see answered in the California Outdoors Q and A column, email it to