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Nutria Invade Seattle Lakefronts

June 25, 2008

An invasion of hungry South American herbivores is chewing up Seattle’s shoreline.

Fast-reproducing nutrias, which sometimes look like muskrats or beavers but act like moles, are digging through area lakeshores and marsh areas with distressing results for other wildlife and humans, The Seattle Times reported Wednesday. Now residents in the Portage Bay and Laurelhurst neighborhoods, local marina users and the University of Washington are talking about ways to rid the area of the so-called swamp rats.

The impacts can be extremely damaging, Barbara DeCaro, resource conservation coordinator for the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department, told the Times. These cattail marshes provide protection for flooding and habitat for critters and fish.

Nutria were taken to Washington in the 1930s for their fur. But some escaped containment and have expanded their numbers in recent warm weather years. Fifteen states nationwide are known to have stable or increasing nutria populations but their greatest numbers are believed to be in Southwest Washington.




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