If 2017 was the year for floods and wildfires throughout California, 2018 is earning itself a new title on the list of horrors experienced by The Golden State: the year of the rodent.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, dozens of semi-aquatic rodents, called Nutria, have invaded the areas of San Joaquin Valley and Fresno, among others, leaving destructive results throughout the region.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife recently issued a warning about the massive influx of rodents, who often weigh in at around 20 pounds and can grow nearly three feet long (not including the 12-inch tail).
“They burrow in dikes, and levees, and road beds, so they weaken infrastructure, (which is) problematic for flood control systems,” said California Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Peter Tira.
The creatures, native to South America, live in or around water and can become quite problematic if not contained quickly, as they can destroy up to 10 times the vegetation they consume.
More than 20 Nutria have been spotted in various regions since September of last year, with experts warning that the number could potentially triple.
Their quick reproduction span is yet another frustrating element for experts, as these particular rodents can give birth to up to 200 offspring each year, or three litters in 13 months.
Experts suggest their presence is a sudden reemergence from the attempted eradication of the species which happened in the late 1970s.
And the problem has become so worrisome to officials who have continued to find them, that the CDFW has gathered a response team to handle the rodent and remove its presence from the state for good.
“We have traps out. We’re setting traps. We have trail cameras,” Tira said. “We’re really asking for the public’s help to report sightings so we can get a handle on the extent of the problem.”
Though Nutria are often mistaken for a simple beaver or muskrat, they can be identified by some defining characteristics: white whiskers, large burrowing teeth and webbed feet with just one toe free.
If residents see any rodents of unusual size, Joshua Teehee for the Miami Herald advises them to “take an appropriate moment to freak out” before promptly contacting the CDFW program.
“Do not go the way of the Moscow restaurant Krasnodar Bistro,” Teehee suggests, “which has made nutria part of it’s focus on high-quality local ingredients.”
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