Representative Josh Harder (CA-09) demanded answers from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services during a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies with ‘Nellie’, a taxidermied nutria, about their proposed funding cuts for controlling the invasive rodent population. Nutria are an semi-aquatic invasive species from South America that are easily recognized by their “nacho cheese” teeth that they use to chew through vegetation and water management systems. Affectionately nicknamed “swamp rats”, nutria can weigh upwards of 40 pounds, eat a quarter of their body weight every day, and one female nutria can reproduce 200 offspring in a year. While they may look cute to some, they can wreak real havoc on their non-native environment.
“When I came to Congress, I didn’t think I would be leading the charge to eradicate swamp rats, but this is a real issue, and we have to act quickly before they fully invade our waterways” said Rep. Harder. “I understand they’re not in everyone’s backyard, but they’re in mine. And a lot of folks in my area would rather not have to wake up to these “nacho cheese” teeth every morning.”
Nutria have caused millions of dollars in damage to wetlands in several states including Maryland and Louisiana. Harder originally appeared with the stuffed rodent in 2019 when he introduced a bill to direct $7 million in funding towards nutria management in California. Nutria were discovered in Harder’s previous CA-10 district in 2017 and have posed an out-sized threat since then. Funding to manage the species is currently set to be cut by over 60%.
Nutria are known to damage farmland, increase the risk of flooding, and endanger local ecosystems. If unmanaged, the nutria population could grow to 250,000 in California within 5 years.
Harder addressed Tracy Stone-Manning, Director, Bureau of Land Management, Martha Williams, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Charles F. Sams III, Director, National Park Service during the hearing.