Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) announced legislation to eradicate and control the population growth of nutrias, colloquially referred to as “swamp rats,” in the Central Valley. Nutrias are an invasive species from South America that have caused millions in damage to swamplands in Maryland and Louisiana. They have been detected in large numbers in the Central Valley and rapidly reproduce. The bill is cosponsored by fellow Central Valley representatives Jim Costa, John Garamendi, and TJ Cox.
“It sounds ridiculous, but these swamp rats are actually a major problem for our water infrastructure. They can cause floods by destroying irrigation canals and levees – that’s the last thing farmers and homeowners need right now. They’re also a serious threat to our wetlands and local ecosystems,” said Rep. Harder. “My bill would revive a program that helped successfully get rid of the pests in Maryland and bring millions of dollars in federal help to the Central Valley.”
“Nutria continues to be a problem in my district and most of the San Joaquin Valley, making life more difficult for farmers,” said Rep. Costa. “California has taken steps to help control the issue, but we must keep pushing for federal funding to eradicate this pest once and for all.”
“These invasive rodents are incredibly destabilizing for the local levees and flood control infrastructure that keeps our communities safe. Sacramento and the Central Valley are already flood prone regions, and we must do everything in our power to ensure nutria don’t exacerbate that risk. We already know there’s a program with a proven track record of eradicating these pests, and our legislation would bring that program to the region and rid our communities of these rodents at a minimal cost,” said Rep. Garamendi.
“The California Department of Fish and Wildlife needs help to control and eliminate this invasive pest, so I'm pleased to join my colleagues in boosting efforts to protect our native wildlife, threatened wetlands, and waterways,” said Rep. Cox.
Rep. Harder’s bill would reauthorize the Nutria Eradication and Control Act of 2003, which was considered successful in the Chesapeake Bay, and direct $7 million in funding towards management of the species in California. The programs supported by the bill encourage habitat protection, education, research, monitoring, and capacity building to provide for the long-term protection of wetlands from destruction caused by nutrias.
Nutrias were originally introduced to the United States as part of the fur trade in the late 1800s but were eradicated from California in the 1970s. The species was rediscovered in the Central Valley in 2017. There have been 531 nutrias removed from the Central Valley since this first sighting. They can devour up to 25 percent of their body weight daily and have up to 200 offspring per year.
Suspected observations or potential signs of nutria should be photographed and immediately reported to CDFW’s Invasive Species Program by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at (866) 440-9530.