A bill sponsored by Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) to halt the invasion of Nutria, an invasive swamp rat, was due to receive a hearing in the Water Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee. The bill would revive an expired program that helped to successfully stop a similar invasion in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. The hearing was slated on Tuesday, Sept. 24 in the Longworth House Office Building. Harder said he planned to bring a life-size nutria replica to illustrate the threat.
Harder’s bill would reauthorize the Nutria Eradication and Control Act of 2003, which was considered successful in the Chesapeake Bay, and direct $7 million in funding towards management of the species in California. The programs supported by the bill encourage habitat protection, education, research, monitoring, and capacity building to provide for the long-term protection of wetlands from destruction caused by nutrias. The bill is cosponsored by Reps. Jim Costa (CA-16), John Garamendi (CA-03), TJ Cox (CA-21), and Barbara Lee (CA-13).
Without help, it’s estimated that there could be up to 250,000 Nutria in California within five years. Nutria were originally introduced to the United States as part of the fur trade in the late 1800s but were eradicated from California in the 1970s. The species was rediscovered in the Central Valley in 2017. Nearly 700 nutria have been removed from the Central Valley since this first sighting. They can devour up to 25 percent of their body weight daily and have up to 200 offspring per year.