Battle plan takes form in Los Banos to battle nutria population

26 Nutria found in four Valley counties so far

A few months ago the nutria began posing a problem for Valley agriculture. Now experts say it's going to take years to win the battle with the pesky rodent.

The nutria is starting to take a firm foothold in Valley wetlands and canals. Twenty-six animals have been trapped so far. The majority caught in Merced County.

Ag commissioners and state fish and wildlife leaders gathered at the Kesterson Wildlife Refuge near Los Banos to talk about the nutria.

Fresno County ag commissioner Les Wright says it's a huge enemy of agriculture. "We're looking at a giant muskrat basically. This thing puts huge holes in levee systems."

Greg Gerstenberg with state fish and wildlife says when it doesn't dig, it eats. "They eat a lot of vegetation and they destroy much more than they actually eat."

The rodent can weigh up to twenty pounds. Fish and wildlife led the discussion of eliminating the nutria and the budget it will take to get the job done. It's not an easy animal

to detect especially in the wetlands. "When this thing it's out in the middle of the marsh and you can be ten feet away from it but you got eight foot of cattails and bullrushes that you can't see.

The plan is to use every type of surveillance available including dogs. "Detectiion dogs are a very good tool because the animal doesn't have to be there for the dog to know it was there."

Because the nutria is a non-game animal traps will be used. Farmers can shoot nutria on their land if it's causing property damage. State fish and wildlife believes nutria can be controlled

in a couple of years but adds there's no time to waste.

The eradication plan is being modeled after the one used in Cesapeake Bay. As of 2016 all known nutria populations have been removed from a quarter-million acres in Maryland.

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