Nutria: Fact, Fur & Fashion – Episode Six

Coastal-Connection_EpisodeSix-NutriaWe explore the impact of the invasive nutria in Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, dispel myths about their origins and consider the value of its pelt. This episode includes interviews with Jennifer Hogue-Manuel at LDWF and manager of the state Nutria Control Program, Shane Bernard, historian and archivist at Avery Island, and founder of Righteous Fur, Cree McCree.

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Nutria Harvest for Wetland Restoration Demonstration (LA-03a)

Louisiana’s growing nutria population is detrimental to the state’s coastal marshes as the animals consume wetland plants that hold the soil together.


This project was located throughout the coastal zone of Louisiana.


The nutria is a non-native, fur-bearing species in the rodent family that was introduced to enhance the Louisiana fur industry. Since the decline of the fur industry, nutria populations have increased tremendously along the coast. Because nutria voraciously consume marsh plants that help anchor wetlands, this non-native nutria population is now having a significant negative impact on coastal marsh health.

Restoration Strategy

The goals of this demonstration project were to determine if nutria meat for human consumption could be promoted and determine if a meat processing system promotional program could be developed. Meeting these goals would have facilitated nutria harvest through an increased meat demand. The project called for Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act funding matching that of participating meat-processing plants in order to compensate trappers for the nutria they harvest. The project also included monitoring selected coastal marsh areas by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) to assess both nutria damage and recovery resulting from this project.

Other components of the project included nutria meat recipe development and publication, along with an advertising and marketing strategy focused on increasing the public demand for nutria meat. The project was implemented by the LDWF with oversight by the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


Progress to Date

This demonstration project was approved by the Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force in April 1997. Through this project, LDWF has coordinated with consultants to develop and implement various nutria meat marketing activities.

Marketing activities included LDWF staff activities and contracting with consultants to: (1) develop and evaluate local, national, and international nutria meat market potential for human consumption; (2) develop a nutria meat marketing plan, including a Nutria Marketing Strategic Report which proposed various ways to encourage the public to eat nutria; (3) participate in festivals and chef’s competitions; (4) distribute nutria meat to the public through sales at grocery stores, restaurants, and other retail outlets; (5) determine nutria meat processing costs, product price structure, and potential meat production volume; and (6) plan promotional and advertising activities based on the Nutria Marketing Strategic Report.

The LDWF 1999, 2000, and 2001 nutria coastal damage surveys and reports indicated continued nutria-related marsh damages in the Louisiana deltaic plain at a level of approximately 100,000 acres per year impacted. Because of the January 2002 Task Force approval of the larger Coastwide Nutria Control Program (LA-03b), the LDWF discontinued providing incentive payments to trappers and conducting nutria herbivory surveys under this demonstration project. Those two items will be funded under the larger project. However, funding for nutria meat processors enrolled in the program, as well as nutria meat marketing activities, continued until the project was completed in October 2003. This project is on Priority Project List 6.

The project is on Priority Project List (PPL) 6.

The Federal Sponsor is US Fish & Wildlife Service.

The Local Sponsor is CPRA.

Approved Date: 1997
Project Area: N/A
Approved Funds: $0.80 M
Total Est. Cost: $0.80 M
Net Benefit After 20 Years: N/A
Status: Completed
Project Type: Demonstration: Herbivory Control

Cooking with Invasive Species

Louisiana is a great place to institute a culture of dining on invasive species because, in addition loving good food, we’ve got plenty of them.  In a state where hunting is common and nutria are rampant, the Coastwide Nutria Control Program (LA-03b, pays people to harvest nutria. There are many benefits to a program like this, including food, environmental protection, and partial income for indulging in a hobby for many sportsmen. On the science side, our nutria program maintains a database of regions where nutria are trapped or hunted that can aid in assessing their damage. [2] The tasty meat from nutria can also be used in cooking, so it doesn’t go to waste. The 2017 documentary “Rodents of Unusual Size” features coastal Louisiana natives, chefs, and others trying to limit the damage done by Louisiana’s nutria population. [3]

There are also plenty of recipes for feral hogs since they are the same species as domestic pigs, Sus scrofa, a staple in American cuisine. Feral hog meat can be substituted into any recipe that calls for domesticated pork, like a classic roast (pictured from Cook-off for the Coast 2019), however it’s important to make sure the hog was thoroughly inspected after harvest since they can carry parasites and diseases harmful to humans. Other invasives that have accessible recipes with a quick search on the web include apple snails (a delicacy in some parts of the world), water hyacinth, and multiple species of Asian carp.

Creative solutions to growing problems come in many forms. Harvesting invasive species as a food source is a multi-benefit solution in the fight against damage from invasives. While some scientists disagree with this method of invasive control, saying it has too little of an effect on invasive populations [1], putting invasive species on the dinner plate can help spread awareness of the issue and provide incentive for increased harvests. CWPPRA embraces new solutions to land loss in Louisiana, and we urge our readers to explore alternative food options that may help in our fight to #ProtectOurCoast. Who knows? You might find a new favorite food.





Terrebonne Parish Coastal Day

On June 27th residents of Terrebonne Parish and other concerned citizens gathered at the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center for the first Terrebonne Parish Coastal Day. This event included educational displays, restoration equipment, informative panels featuring elected officials and coastal experts, and plenty of discussion on levees, floodgates, non-structural risk reduction and restoration. Speakers such as Colonel Clancy of the Army Corp of Engineers and State Senator Norby Chabert described how Terrebonne Parish has been one of the most aggressive parishes in protecting communities and livelihoods by working diligently to get permits and funding for projects in the area. Posters on the walls displayed projects from Amelia to South Lafourche showcasing the work being done to better protect Terrebonne Parish from situations such as hurricanes and flooding. Along with CWPPRA, other exhibitors in attendance included organizations such as the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Restore or Retreat, and the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center. Special guest, Beignet the Nutria, accompanied the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center as a visual reminder of the speed at which nutria eat vegetation and the destruction that this animal can cause to coastal wetlands. Over 700 people were in attendance for this interactive showcase of coastal protection.

The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act Public Outreach staff attended the event as exhibitors providing information and materials to educate the public on wetland and coastal restoration. Publications such as Partners in Restoration, Understanding CWPPRA, Coastal Wetlands Restoration Residents’ Guide, CWPPRA Posters, and Henri Heron’s Louisiana Wetlands were distributed in addition to editions of WaterMarks and fact sheets featuring projects within Terrebonne, Lafourche, and St. Mary Parishes.

Wildlife of the Wetlands

Nutria: Friend or Foe of Wetlands?

The nutria, a large, semi-aquatic rodent native to South America was introduced to North America to benefit the fur industry in the 1930s. Louisiana led the fur industry at its peak when 1.8 million nutria pelts were worth $15.7 million, reaching an average price of $8.19 per pelt. During the fur trade, the nutria was also used as a biological agent to control aquatic weedsprimarily water hyacinthand was distributed along the coast, with a large concentration in southeast Louisiana. Due to changes in the industry, the fur trade quickly declined during the 1980s, leaving an immense overabundance of nutria in coastal North America.

Nutria mature quickly, reaching reproductive maturity at 3-9 months, with the ability to produce 2 litters of 1-13 young and become pregnant a third time all within one year. With the lack of significant natural population control and a high reproductive rate, the population of nutria grew tremendously and made a historic, yet detrimental, impact on coastal marshes and Nutriaagricultural fields. Primarily herbivorous, nutria have a diet ranging from aquatic, sub-aquatic, and land plants; they often feed on the base of the plant, constructing large holes from digging for roots and rhizomes, halting plant regrowth. Not only do nutria feed at a rapid pace, but they also consume approximately 25 percent of their body weight daily. With vegetative growth being critical to hold sediments in place for the formation of new wetlands, the Coastal Wetland Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act implemented the Coastwide Nutria Control Program in 2002 in hopes of protecting wetland growth and vegetation. The Coastwide Nutria Control Program was designed to eradicate 400,000 nutria annually with an incentive payment to encourage nutria harvesting. Prior to the program installment in 2002, aerial surveys from 1993-2001 revealed approximately 100,000 acres of nutria-damaged marsh coastwide. An estimated 6,008 acres of coastal marsh were damaged in 2015.








Coastwide Nutria Control Program

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Prior to implementation of the Coastwide Nutria Control Program in 2002, fur trapping activity had declined drastically for over 10 years because of weak market demand and low prices.  In coastal Louisiana, this decline has resulted in overpopulation of nutria and serious damage to coastal wetlands from nutria herbivory.  Mature nutria are very prolific, leading to a high population.  Without significant annual harvest, nutria can cause significant damage to marshes and swamps in coastal Louisiana.  Annual aerial surveys from 1993 to 2001 have indicated that approximately 100,000 acres have been impacted coastwide.

This project’s objective is to significantly reduce the damage nutria herbivory causes to coastal wetlands.  The Coastwide Nutria Control Program is designed to remove about 400,000 nutria annually.  The control program consists of an incentive payment program to encourage nutria harvesting.  Nutria harvest locations are recorded in an effort to compare harvest levels and occurrence of herbivory damage.  The program is implemented by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Project Area

This project is located throughout the coastal zone of Louisiana.  The program area includes all basins and coastal parishes located south of Interstates 10 and 12.

The Coastwide Nutria Control Program was selected for Phrase 1 (engineering and design) funding at the January 2002 Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force meeting (Priority List 11).  Phase 2 (implementation) was approved during the April 2002 Task Force meeting and began in November 2002 with the 2002-03 Louisiana trapping season.  Over the first eight years of program implementation, nutria harvest has averaged 321,354 per year.  Acres damaged by herbivory has decreased from about 100,000 acres to about 8,500 acres since the program began.  The approved funding for this project is $36.7 M with a total estimated cost of $68.0 M.

This project is on Priority Project List 11.

The Coastwide Nutria Control Program’s two sponsors include:

  • Federal Sponsor: Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Local Sponsor: Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority

View this project and others at CWPPRA’s website