Sunday, December 4, 2011

Freeing Maryland of Nutria

This article in the Baltimore Sun talks about how the invasive species, nutria has caused the eastern shore’s wetlands serious damage. Nutria is an orange toothed, web-footed beaver-like species that was brought to the United States from South America in the 1880s. They were brought over for the fur industry because they were cheap to feed. Unfortunately the industry later collapsed and the nutria were released into the wild, devouring the marshlands and reproducing rapidly.

In the past several years thousands of nutria have been hunted and killed to protect the wetlands. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, an area of 150,000 acres is where the nutria lived, and in the last three decades they destroyed over 5,000 acres of vegetation. Without the plant’s roots erosion occurs, which allows sediment s and pollution to flow into the Bay, as well as loss of habitat for many other species. An economic report was done, by Southwick Associates and they confirmed that Blackwater nutria cost Maryland $4 million annually and it will only keep increasing. The damage done by this animal costs more than removing it, so since 2000 Congress has provided a $1.5 million annually budget for its removal. Since 2002, almost 20,000 nutria have been killed in the Eastern shore, and so far this year Blackwater is nutria-free.

I personally hope Blackwater can stay this way, but I find it highly unlikely that they are completely gone forever. Nutria is an animal that burrows in the mud and hides extremely well like any other rodent. Also their rate of reproduction is very fast which is not good, and they will continue to destroy the marshlands and cause the Chesapeake Bay more damage than it already has.
--Kelsey Myers

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