Over 350,000 nutrias are destroying the marshes of the Louisiana coastline. The buck-toothed rodents, originally imported from South America for their fur, eat the roots of the marsh grass. The grass dies and no longer holds the soil, which allows the marsh to sink. Salt water runs in and kills more vegetation.
Hunting nutrias can be lucrative business. The state pays a bounty of $6 per nutria tail or about $1.5 million for 248,000 nutrias in the 2019-2020 season.
In February 2021, 200 hunters combined play with work at a weekend nutria rodeo near Venice. The 1,500 nutrias they killed barely put a dent in the rodent’s population, but that wasn’t the point. The hunters were there to have fun.
They shot the nutrias from flat-bottomed swamp boats and hauled the carcasses aboard. Back at the dock, the hunters slung the nutrias into a pile. Imagine the smell of 1,500 slime-covered nutrias baking in the sun.
The rodeo awarded prizes in three categories: the most nutrias killed by one hunter, the heaviest nutria, and the farthest-thrown nutria. That’s right, there was a nutria throwing contest.
The organizers made a scratch line out of nutrias. Hunters grabbed other nutrias by the tail, twirled like Olympic hammer throwers, and released. The winning throw was 93 feet.
Once the fun was over, the organizers were left with a pile of rotting nutrias to dispose of. After a deal with the Audubon Zoo fell apart, a local crabber came to the rescue. He bought the nutrias to bait his traps.