Nutria is a semi-aquatic rodent which is quite large in size. It looks similar to beavers or muskrats with the difference being a slightly haired tail and a round head. It has webbed hind feet which aid it in swimming and a white patch on the muzzle. Nutrias are really strong in swimming and have the ability to stay submerged in water for more than five minutes at a time. In comparison to the body, their forelegs are exceptionally small. There is a lining that prevents the entry of water in their mouths while they swim. Nutrias weigh an average of 12 pounds and can grow from 16 inches to 24 inches in length. Nutrias eat a number of small meals throughout the day and like consuming roots, tubers and rhizomes. Occasionally, they also consume freshwater mussels and crustaceans. They usually eat during semi-dark times of the day such as dusk or dawn. Nutrias consume approximately 25 percent of their weight daily.
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Nutrias cause a lot of economic damage by disrupting catfish farming and damaging rice and sugar fields. They also interrupt in flood control. Their burrowing can result in a lot of damage. Nutrias dig into the soil to eat the basal and root portions of wetland plants. The roots of marsh vegetation bind the soft organic marsh soils together. When this root dies, the soils become vulnerable to erosion, which results in added sedimentation, instability of stream banks and reduced water quality. The burrows made by them can also hamper flood control as they weaken the foundations of reservoir dams and roadbeds. The burrows made under the base of buildings can damage the entire structure. They also erode the banks of streams, ditches and lakes and cause a lot of damage to other crops including corn, sugar, table beets, wheat, alfalfa, barley, oats, various melons, peanuts and a variety of vegetables.