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February 29, 2012 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Immigrants Searching fur Neutral Waters

Typical story: shy willing workers brought in to do a job, suddenly finding themselves the object of furry controversy.

The lakes were clogged with duckweed and invasive water plants. No one wanted to get in there and clean it up. Nasty low paid manual labor. It was a simple solution: just import a few – some from South American. Just as a trial? Approved.

So they came, Heads down – bringing nothing with them. Seeing the job. Quickly going to work. Much relief. The fur didn’t fly. The pilot project was a success.

So the workers settled in – with a bit more confidence. There was plenty that needed to be done. They didn’t mind floating around from waterway to waterway. Feeling secure, and well fed, they began to see great state of Texas as home. When necessary, they adapted. They started families and had children, the normal two or three a year. Gladly, they labored in the twilight and while others slept. Gradually they spread across the state.

Then there were grumbles and complaints.

People noticed their growing numbers.

“Where did they all come from?”

“Why are they still here?”

“Do we really need them?” “

“They are crowding out the natives!”

“They undermine everything!”

The phrases all immigrants have hurled at them.

But they kept their heads down. Moved quickly with their work. Maybe some would see value in their efforts and allow them to stay? They liked it here. There was abundant food and clean water. None complained that they were left to live in places others refused. And at the end of the day all they wanted was a place to relax with their families. Quietly they moved in the shadows.

Then the TV cameras came and the outcry grew deafening (and frightening to the youngsters). But the old ones were determined not to be forced out. They may have been discovered, but they’ve been here too long to go back.

The Nutria aren’t being shy anymore around the Point Apartments in Pasadena. They consider themselves Texans now. Each afternoon two dozen or more of the giant rodents can be seen frolicking in the decorative retaining ponds.

They’ve found Nutria Heaven

Photo by Tiffany Craig. KHOU 11 News

Strict vegetarians who adore reeds and water plants, the furry guys are thrilled with the soggy wetlands and bayous filled by the winter’s rains. Unfortunately they eat about 25% of their weight in plants each day, so an area can get stripped bare pretty fast.

Awkwardly, they just don’t seem able to break that habit of competing with ducks for food tossed by visitors at the city and state parks in broad daylight – causing a few shrieks and rapid retreats (Just drop the bag, please.)

Nutria: "My what big teeth you have." (image from WIKI)

The nutria know they have an image problem: about 2 feet long with a long rat-like tail and webbed hind feet. But they have those cute little front paws they use to hold things. Generally curious and docile, they have tried to win over the local residents with their antics. But maybe it’s the big front teeth – they look like beavers. That similarity makes them a tad uncomfortable as their soft under pelts have also been harvested in the past for the fur trade.

But the nutria are feeling pretty sassy right now at the apartment ponds – much to the despair of the human residents who just find them, well, creepy – in a horror movie kinda way.

There may be a real reason for humans to be wary.

Nutria: Surprise! (Image from WIKI)

Oh, not because of angry nutria threats.

It’s that alligators are warming up and will be moving around pretty soon…..and alligators love a tasty nutria snack.

So step away from that nutria.

And watch out for those lumpy log shapes that weren’t there yesterday!

Just can’t trust those migrants.

The tail of a tale,

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge

Related posts: try the “alligator” tag in the sidebar

Interested in nutria lore?



  1. robstroud / Feb 29 2012 1:52 am

    Can’t we just encourage this to become the latest “pet” craze?


  2. PiedType / Feb 29 2012 4:07 am

    Not familiar with these critters. They look too much like rats to suit me … and at two feet long … eek!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 29 2012 4:16 am

      I’ve actually seen some in county ponds. Gnarly! Wouldn’t like to swim with those guys. (they’ve had big ones almost 3 feet including tails.Shiver.) Thanks for splashin’ on over to chat


  3. VIKRAM ROY / Feb 29 2012 5:03 am

    I think they are some kind of rats too!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 29 2012 2:50 pm

      Maybe they need to gather up some of the harbor dock/port cats to guard the place? Thanks for stopping by


  4. roughseasinthemed / Feb 29 2012 7:29 am

    I don’t know anything about them either. The parallel with immigrants is a clever one. The other issue, is that people can’t resist dabbling with nature and trying to change it, and then instead of letting nature adjust, which it invariably does, although not always the way we want – we have to dabble again. (And again, and again…..)


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 29 2012 2:57 pm

      Oddly some of the nutria were imported in 1930’s to Louisiana in an attempt to clean up Hyacinth invasive plant in the waterways. Turned out nutria won’t eat that…but a hurricane washed a bunch of them into TX. (back they were also hunted for pelts – $4.30 a pelt). Then some bright person thought they’d be good to put in various lakes here…and they wee…except no preditors except alligators which were in decline at that time….what a mess! Thanks for floating by


  5. crazygoangirl / Feb 29 2012 9:49 am

    Clever post! Perhaps a better name might help? Nutria sounds so much like an energy drink…edible in a horror-movie kind of way 😛


  6. mLr / Feb 29 2012 11:33 am

    Geez over here on Oz they would be made into slippers quick smart! 😉


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 29 2012 3:05 pm

      Nutria undercoats are supposed to be very soft. Originally (1930’s) the animals were brought in to be hunted for the fur trade…so was that hats? Maybe you are right…I could grab up a few of those and stitch up some vests and slippers and sell them at the rodeo…but I’d have to glue on some sparkles? Thanks for tossing that idea this way.


  7. writingfeemail / Feb 29 2012 11:40 am

    Do you suppose we will ever learn? A local Chicken producer imported a beetle several years ago to eat flies and then the beetles became a bigger problem than the flies ever were. And kudzu…yikes. Great piece.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 29 2012 3:08 pm

      If it’s not one thing it’s another! A “hand’s off” policy might be wiser. Too many beetles – what a mess. Thanks for sharing that.


  8. jmmcdowell / Feb 29 2012 11:51 am

    Kudzu, loosestrife, cane toads in Australia—even our attempts at “natural” solutions often backfire. Then, of course, there are the “engineered” solutions like DDT. Sometimes it’s best to let Nature be….


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 29 2012 3:13 pm

      What? Let things take care of themselves? Humans seem to have some need to “fix” things….and only realize too late they have created a nightmare. Sugarcane farmers hate these little guys who seem to have a sweet tooth. It seems like the nutria population is down due to a disease in the past few years and the return of alligators. Not sure that makes the apartment dwellers any happier…( keep Fluffy up, now)


  9. RAB / Feb 29 2012 12:03 pm

    The immigrant metaphor is brilliant.


  10. Jeannie / Feb 29 2012 1:31 pm

    Who’s the boss? That’s what I want to know…;)


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 29 2012 3:16 pm

      Good question….look for the one carrying the Blackberry? Thanks for wondering (others were curious but were too shy to ask….)


  11. Lone Grey Squirrel / Feb 29 2012 4:15 pm

    Rodents are our friends. Yes. Especially cute squirrels.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 29 2012 4:28 pm

      (It’s so confusing as to why DC wants to relocate so many rat families…)
      Anyway, the apartment management is trying to see if they can the charge rent for the basement apartments the nutria have dug under the concrete foundations of their buildings! Pays to be adaptable. Thanks for wandering by


  12. CATachresis / Feb 29 2012 4:49 pm

    Whoa! You had me fooled. Clever post. They are rats aren’t they??? All you need to do is bus in some immigrant cats. Problem solved ……. errr, well maybe not. But cats are cuter 😀


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 29 2012 5:36 pm

      Rats are in the rodent family. Nutria are in the rodent family…I have worries that the Discovery channel will show up with “Swamp People”…great first cowboy hats on statues – Heehaw!
      Come to think of it “Swamp People” guys are supposed to show up shortly for Offshore Technology Conference…don’t know why…guess dress code info will specify “Daisy Duke” dress?
      Hold the cats, really, keep them safe in your arms.
      Thanks for pawsing to chat!


  13. Sunshine / Feb 29 2012 11:20 pm

    Oh my… new news about Nutria. Who knew? Certainly not me!?!
    Teehee, like your “pawsing to chat.” Cute.
    Thanks for the brain food, again. 🙂


  14. MJ, Nonstepmom / Mar 1 2012 2:47 pm

    We will never learn, this plays out over & over – introducing a non-native to “take care of” an issue with no thought to how it will play out ! I like the comment above, maybe they will become a pet craze !


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Mar 1 2012 3:24 pm

      Pet craze! Maybe I should take some out to the rodeo’s livestock show to stir up interest in that? (There’s always some people that have to be the “First on the block” with new stuff…) The nutria probably wouldn’t need a bath – just a sparkling collar – and maybe a T-shirt? Thanks for stopping by.


  15. dominiqueamarshall / Mar 1 2012 5:19 pm

    I do like the immigrant angle. It gives it a very “human” aspect to the nutria plight! Granted, they are scary looking critters. What’s with the red teeth? But I agree they are here and thriving through no fault of their own.

    I say enter them in the “world’s ugliest dog” competition. I don’t think we could tell the difference between those poor hideous (albeit oddly charming) dogs.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Mar 1 2012 6:04 pm

      Great comments. (The teeth can be orange, too!) Hilarious idea entering them into the “ugly dog” competitions – you do have a point. Thanks for adding that


  16. JannatWrites / Mar 2 2012 4:44 am

    As others have noted, your parallel to the human immigration issues is great. It seems we can turn the other cheek until it inconveniences us.

    I’ve never heard of Nutrias, but they look freaky. Too much like rats for me to love – especially being nearly 2-feet long. Pretty sure they’d make my husband squeal like a girl 🙂

    We should leave nature well enough alone. We were watching an educational show recently and they explained the breeding of Africanized bees with European honey bees in Brazil. They wanted more honey production (which the Africanized bees could do) but the scientists didn’t realize how aggressive the bees would be. (Oops). The Africanized bees are moving north and have been established in our state for quite some time. Those bees scare the wits out of me!


  17. Kourtney Heintz / Mar 2 2012 7:27 pm

    I love how you started this out. I totally thought it was going to be about the illegal immigration debate. And when you revealed it to be about the nutria it really made me think about what is and isn’t tolerated. How something can go from a breeze to a tornado. Great job! 🙂


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Mar 2 2012 9:30 pm

      Glad you found something ti tickle your brain. Some Canadian Geese are also seeing some feathers fly about their settling in (a previous post under “birds” tag.) Thanks for gliding through.


  18. Patron Saint of Knives / Mar 3 2012 5:36 pm

    I used to work at Reed College In Portland Oregon where they have a small, student run nuclear reactor for research… I used to get big lumps of dry ice from the lab and through it in the creek and when the students asked why it was bubbling smoke there, I told them it was from the reactor… I also told them the Nutria that came out of the creek at night was a Beaver deformed from the radiation… The smartest kids in the nation almost had fits they got so upset. High IQ and $4 will buy you a cup of coffee.


  19. elmediat / Mar 6 2012 11:42 pm

    Great article. Reminds me of how beaver and raccoon have been introduced into other parts of the world, where they upset the balance in the ecosystem. Actually just removing a natural predator allowed the raccoon to spread without any checks, like those cute seals eating all the fish along our Canadian east coast region.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Mar 7 2012 12:26 am

      Just can’t leave well enough alone! Thanks for adding your experiences to the convversation


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