Rodents Of Unusual Size? No, this is no fairy tale. I’m referring to Rodents Of Unusual Snacking. The South American coypu, introduced throughout the southern coastal United States in the 20th Century as a source of fur or a weed-controller, is now known here as the nutria. That name makes it sound like some kind of benign sugar substitute you’d put in your coffee, but the nutria hasn’t been sweet at all to the marshland habitat it occupies. The nutria reach sexual maturity in just six months and produce multiple broods in a year, outpacing alligator predation. They also chew huge holes in the coastal wetlands that protect the watersheds of Louisiana and Maryland, weakening these vital habitats and leaving the inland more vulnerable to storm surges.
Ravaged habitat and coastal vulnerability convert to high dollar costs. Seeking to prevent further high-dollar costs to the nutria-infested states of Louisiana and Maryland, senators Ben Cardin, Barbara Mikulski, David Vitter and Mary Landrieu — of, you guessed it, Louisiana and Maryland — have introduced S. 1519, a bill before the Senate that would appropriate federal money to the cause of nutria eradication. Senators Cardin and Vitter haven’t found much to agree on outside the cause of nutria, but they’re willing to be aligned here, showing the potential for regional concerns to outweigh partisan ones.