Bounty on nutria goes up $1

Published 4:30 pm Friday, September 1, 2006

Louisiana’s bounty on nutria will increase by $1 for the coming trapping and hunting season as the state again pushes a program to keep the rodents from gnawing away at coastal marshes.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said this week that each nutria tail turned in by trappers and hunters will fetch $5, an increase from the $4-a-tail incentive offered since the program started in 2002.

“Oh, man. It’s great,” said Vernon Naquin, a Houma resident who has participated in the nutria program since its beginning.

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Terrebonne Parish trappers and hunters regularly lead the state in nutria harvests as part of the program. Lafourche Parish follows close behind.

This year’s season is tentatively scheduled from Nov. 20 to March 31. The state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will set firm dates for the season during the Sept. 7 meeting of the state Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, said Edmond Mouton, biologist program manager for the state wildlife department.

The state developed the Coastwide Nutria Control Program in an effort to curb wetland loss caused by the bucktoothed rodents.

Nutria weigh an average of 12 pounds and can eat an estimated 25 percent of their weight in marsh plants each day, chewing away the stems and roots that hold the marsh together.

Registered participants shoot or trap the rodents, sometimes used for food and fur. The program, paid for by the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act, aims to clear the Louisiana coast of 400,000 nutria each year.

During the past four years, the program has removed more than 1.1 million nutria from the coast.

Nutria have damaged an estimated 100,000 acres to varying degrees since their arrival in the state in the 1930s, according to biologists. The program has gradually reduced that impact to about 50,000 acres, and those haven’t been damaged as severely as in the past, said Mouton in an earlier interview.

The extra dollar per tail should help offset rising harvest costs, especially soaring fuel prices, he said.

The nutria population has lessened as a result of the nutria-control program and last year’s hurricanes, Mouton said.

“They’ll be harder to catch and trap,” he said.

Information from: The Courier,