Rodents pose serious threat in California

One of the most recent threats to California is swamp rodents called nutria. They weigh about 9 kg each and eat about a quarter of their weight a day by digging on river banks and chewing on plants that emerge from the water.

Animals can destroy habitats of rare and endangered species, degrading the soil, ruining crops and carrying pathogens that can threaten livestock.

Above all, they pose a risk to public safety: left unchecked, nutria can compromise California's water supply, especially if they enter the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

The delta is the "California water infrastructure heartbeat," according to Peter Tira, a spokesman for the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife. It contains a network of more than 10 miles of canals and dykes that protect the area from flooding, provide drinking water to millions of Californians, and irrigate the lush agricultural region.

Now armed with $ 10 million in state funds, the wildlife agency is employing new tactics to eradicate nutria and try to avoid the widespread destruction they cause.

“For the past two years, our best efforts have been to try not to even control the population, but to prevent it from exploding as we seek the resources needed to actually pursue eradication,” said Valerie Cook, environmental program manager for newly created Fish Nutria Eradication. and Wildlife. Program.

“We haven't had nutria in California for 50 years, so nobody really knows much about them,” said Tira. “We had to learn about the work as we went along.”

An invasive species originating from South America and brought to the US at the height of the fur trade in the late nineteenth century, it was believed that the nutria were eradicated in the state in the nineteenth decade until one of them appeared in a beaver trap in 19. Since then more than 1970 nutria have been arrested and killed.

Farmers, landowners and biologists in Central Valley, an agricultural region 10 miles north of Sacramento, are on high alert.

Central Valley is the most productive agricultural region in the United States, responsible for more than half of the nation's fruits, vegetables, and nuts, including nearly all of its apricots, table grapes, carrots, asparagus, and walnuts. Federal Department of Agriculture figures put the market value of Central Valley agricultural production at 2017 at nearly $ 29 billion.

Damage to the region's soil or water infrastructure would be devastating to the economy and national diet.

Trail cameras and landowners have helped to locate nocturnal creatures in an area of ​​nearly 34.449 square kilometers that wildlife authorities are evaluating for nourishing habitats.

Farmers donor live bait traps help capture them. Once identified as nutria, the animals are slaughtered. About three-quarters of the nutria females have been found pregnant - they can have up to three litters a year.

New attention and funding will allow the Department. of Fishing and Wildlife hire 46 employees. In December, the agency will launch what is known as a Judas Nutria program that would equip surgically sterilized nutria with radio necklaces and send them to the wild. Because they are so social, the animals will lead the team to other nourishes.

In addition to threatening agriculture and infrastructure, nutria can damage wetlands, which play a critical role in keeping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and helping to mitigate global warming.

The Central Valley also houses the largest concentration of migratory waterfowl on Earth, said Ric Ortega, general manager of the Grassland District.

Source: The Associated Press

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