Mary Tutwiler

Bounty hunters making inroads in nutria population

by Mary Tutwiler

Since the bounty for nutria went up last year, more trappers have been at work in the marsh, and the nutria numbers seem to be down. Starting in 2002, Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries began paying $4 a tail as an incentive to help rid the wetlands of the south American rodent which is chewing its way through Louisiana’s marshes. For the 2006-2007 season, the price for nutria tails increased to $5, and participation in the harvest went up, according to Janet Wiebe, a biologist in the Nutria Control Program with LWF. “Between the effects of the storm and gas prices going up, we needed an incentive to keep trappers trapping. The max, over the next few years, may be as much as $9 a tail.” Wildlife and Fisheries will do an survey next month to get more accurate data on nutria populations, but for the moment, it’s word of mouth, and the word seems to be good for the marshes and bad for the nutria. This morning’s Times-Picayune has a feature story about a Houma trapper, Vernon Naquin, accompanied with a slide-show and video of a day, trapping nutria, in the marshes of Orange Grove Canal. According to the TP, nutria are spreading north, from Washington state to New Jersey, so the progress made in Louisiana may be nullified by the expanded habitat of the giant swamp rats.