The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) was recently awarded $8.5 million in funding over three years by the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy to expand its nutria eradication operations.
The funding was awarded in a competitive process as part of the Delta Conservancy’s Proposition 1 Ecosystem Restoration and Water Quality Grant Program. The money complements state funding anticipated in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2019-20 budget, which together will establish a dedicated Nutria Eradication Program within CDFW and vastly expand field operations across the entire area of infestation.
The grant funding represents the second, significant award from the Delta Conservancy. In 2018, the Delta Conservancy awarded CDFW $1.2 million over three years that, along with grants from the Wildlife Conservation Board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s State Wildlife Grant Program, largely enabled CDFW’s eradication efforts to get off the ground.
To date, CDFW has prioritized detection and eradication efforts in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in order to limit the invasive rodents’ spread and impact on California’s most important water resource and the heart of the state’s water delivery and infrastructure.
In mid-May, CDFW confirmed via trail camera video the first nutria detected in Stockton. This is the northernmost nutria detected to date and is approximately 16 river miles north of the nearest known nutria population near Manteca, where CDFW and its partners have been actively trapping. The Stockton detection is within the heart of the Delta. CDFW immediately responded with trapping in the area, redirecting additional resources to the Delta, and surveying for upstream source populations.
Since first discovering nutria in Merced County in 2017, CDFW and its partner agencies have taken or confirmed the take of 510 nutria in five counties – 430 from Merced County, 65 from San Joaquin County, 12 from Stanislaus County, two from Mariposa County and one from Fresno County. Nutria have also been confirmed in Tuolumne County.
Nutria, which are native to South America, have established populations in more than a dozen states, including Oregon, Washington, Texas, Louisiana, and the Delmarva Peninsula region of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.
In California, nutria pose a significant threat as an agricultural pest, a destroyer of critical wetlands needed by native wildlife, and a public safety risk as their destructive burrowing jeopardizes the state’s water delivery and flood control infrastructure. CDFW is working with both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture to eradicate nutria from the state.
Any suspected nutria sightings should be reported immediately to CDFW’s toll-free public reporting hotline at (866) 440-9530. The e-mail address to report sightings is firstname.lastname@example.org. CDFW’s nutria eradication webpage at wildlife.ca.gov/nutria offers references for identifying nutria and distinguishing nutria from other similar aquatic animals.