Nutria, also known as coypu, are often mistaken for a rat or a beaver. Adults are less than 20 pounds and almost 2 feet long. Native to South America they were brought to the Puget Sound area to replace a diminishing beaver fur trade in the 1930s. Several escaped or were released and have since then established an ever-growing population in the Puget Sound, specifically near Skagit, Snohomish, and King counties. Now that they’re here they are using their large teeth to chew away at the roots of fresh and salt water marsh plants. This leads to increasing erosion in the water. They are also eating away at the habitat that provides homes for many young fish and water birds.
In Washington State, there’s a growing effort to trap and relocate these animals before they cause more damage to the Sound.