Nutria are bad. They kill other water mammals. They destroy the embankment. There has not found a food market from their meat. But how should they be trapped?
Where some in Congress see a cruel animal killing-device, U.S. Rep. Garret Graves sees an important tool for controlling the explosive growth of nutria, the large, orange-toothed rodents that are eating away Louisiana’s coastline. Graves, R-Baton Rouge, is opposing a bill that would ban the use of traps in the national wildlife refuge system, which covers more than 184,000 acres in Louisiana and 740 million acres nationwide. In Louisiana, the ban could mean a proliferation of the already troublesome “swamp rat.” “We have, by some estimates, millions of nutria causing devastating impacts on our coastal ecosystem,” Graves said. “And traps play a role in their population control.”nola.com
They are not indigenous to this area having been brought here decades ago.
Brought to Louisiana from South America in the 1930s, nutria gnaw away the roots of marsh plants, leaving little to hold the fragile landscape in place. The rodents are one of many factors contributing to rapid land loss along Louisiana’s coast. The major causes include oil and gas exploration, sea level rise, soil subsidence and the loss of replenishing sediment since the Mississippi River was brought under control with levees. More than 40 square miles of Louisiana’s coast have been turned into open water by nutria over the past two decades, according to the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The anti-trapping bill, known as the Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act, was introduced in Congress this month by U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York. It would ban steel-jawed leg-hold devices, snares and other body-gripping traps in national wildlife refuges. Nadler said the traps cause pain and suffering, not only to nuisance animals like nutria, but various other wild animals and potentially even refuge visitors. “The national wildlife refuge system currently attracts more than 61 million visitors each year, of which trappers constitute less than 0.1% of total visitors,” Nadler said. “However, the activities of this small minority put the safety of millions of other visitors at risk, making trapping on wildlife refuges an unacceptable exploitation of our public resources.” Nadler characterized the traps as “inherently cruel, brutal devices” that can cause “excruciating pain as (animals) desperately attempt to escape.” “They may remain in this state of misery for hours or even days, as trappers often are not required to return to their traps for at least 24 hours,” Nadler said.
There are those who oppose them but others that say it is the best for what they are used for.
Gordon Batcheller of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies said the ban will severely limit control measures against beaver and muskrat, which can sometimes overpopulate refuges and cause flooding and erosion problems. Scaling back the fight against nutria is especially problematic, he said. “It’s a policy of subtraction of the tools our biologists need to protect (natural) resources,” he said. “I’ve seen in Louisiana where nutria will literally open up a marsh, expose it to mud, and in most coastal areas of Louisana, it’s gone and never restored.” Graves, a former chairman of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, has taken aim at the nutria problem in recent years. His bill expanding the Nutria Eradication and Control Act to include all states — not just Louisiana and Maryland, was signed into law in late 2020. It also increased federal nutria control funding from $4 million to $12 million.
I don’t like nutria but I don’t like the traps either. If these are the best then maybe we don’t oppose them but if there are other, better options why not use them? This article did not note other options. Connecticut has looked at this question and has padded jawed traps.