Field Guides

Hystricomorpha

Suborder: Hystricomorpha (hystricognath rodents):

Family Myocastoridae (coypus):

  • Genus: Myocastor
    • Coypu – M. Coypus

Norbert Nagel [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Native to South America, the Coypu has been introduced to both North America and Europe where the animal is commonly known as the Nutria. They resemble muskrats, however Nutria are significantly larger weighing anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds. A surefire way to differentiate between the species is by their tails, Nutria have round tails whereas those of muskrats are flattened. Nutria are semiaquatic, they nest in burrows near ponds, marshes, and slow moving streams and subsit on the local flora (Stefoff 59).

Nutria can be found in the southeast of Missouri. As with many invasive species, their presence has caused problems in places such as Louisiana, Maryland, and Oregon. Because Nutria cannot tolerate particularly cold winters, they have not established a large population in Missouri and are not a particularly big issue. Nutria tend to overgraze, damage wetland habitats, erode river banks, and generally disrup the ecosystems in which they’ve been introduced. Nutria can even eat 25% of their body weight every day; farming them for their furs or meat is unprofitable due to the sheer amount of feed they need. Several eradication efforts are underway (Missouri Department of Conservation).

Citations:

“Nutria (Coypu).” MDC Discover Nature, nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/nutria-coypu.

Stefoff, Rebecca. The Rodent Order. Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2009.

Vorel, Martin. “FREE IMAGE: Coypu | Libreshot Public Domain Photos.” LibreShot, 8 May 2015, libreshot.com/coypu/.

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