March 26, 2013


Myocastor coypus

Native range: Temperate and subtropical South America

Invasive Range: Established in 16 states; abundant in the Gulf Coast but found as far west as Oregon and Washington

Habitat: Found in a variety of semi-aquatic environments that occur at the boundary between permanent water and land, such as farm ponds, swamps, rivers, bayous, drainage canals, freshwater marshes and land coastal areas.

Description: Large rodent, about the size of a beaver, with a long, rounded, ratlike till. Hind feet are webbed and incisors are orange colored. Upper coat is reddish brown with dark underfur, and a white muzzle tip and chin.

Ecological Impacts: Burrows in stream banks, feeds on bald cypress and other native species.

In 1945, E. A. McIlhenny, who presided over the Tabasco brand pepper sauce, reported that he had released all of the nutria from his fur farm on Avery Island in southern Louisiana. “My object in liberating them,” he explained to another fur farmer, “is to establish a fur industry on nutria in the waste marshes of Louisiana, and I have succeeded in doing this.”

Range of nutria in North America

Nutria, also known as coypu and river rat, is native to temperate and subtropical South America. Introduced to Europe, Asia, and Africa, these voracious, herbivorous, semiaquatic rodents were brought had been brought to the US in 1889 for their fur; smaller than a beaver, larger than a muskrat—as everywhere else, they escaped into wetlands, chewing through whatever needed to be chewed through (rubber tires, wood siding) along the way.

By the 1950s, there were 20 million nutria in Louisiana alone. Crops and levees were being damaged by their munching and digging. Should the state promote their fur—and protect their numbers—as a natural resource, or declare them a pest and get rid of them? The state got all that worked out, siding with the furriers, when, in the 1980s, the bottom fell out of the international fur market.

Lately, a few innovative designers have turned their attention to this furry invader. In 2009, Cree McCree founded Righteous Fur in New Orleans, creating a line of clothing from the soft brown fur and jewelry from the orange teeth.

In 2011, the Marsh Dog pet company started a line of dog treats to help in the fight to conserve Louisiana’s wetlands. The nutria are sourced from the Barataria-Terrebonne Estuarine System in southern Louisiana, which is threatened by the rodents’ consumption of marsh plants.

We’ll probably be seeing more of the nutria. Climate change, accompanied by heavier rains in some areas, could extend their range north, since they would rather swim than walk.

For more information on nutria biology see

For more on the history of the nutria release see Shane K. Bernard’s “M’sieu Ned’s Rat? Reconsidering the Origin of Nutria in Louisiana: The E. A. McIlhenny Collection, Avery Island, Louisiana” in Louisiana History.



Smoked Pulled Nutria
Dave Budeau’s award-winning recipe from the Institute of Applied Ecology’s Invasive Species Cookoff. Read more about it here.

For nutria
2 large nutria (backquarters)
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 gallon water
Woodchips (hickory or alder)

For barbecue sauce
½ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1-2 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

1. Before smoking, soak nutria in a simple brine. On the stove over low heat, dissolve the salt and sugar in about half a gallon water.  Once the salt is dissolved, remove from heat and add another half gallon of cold water, add nutria, and place in refrigerator. Leave nutria to soak for 24 hours. 

2. Remove nutria from brine and pat dry with a paper towel before placing on smoker racks. A small electric smoker can be used to control both time and temperature. 

3. Smoke nutria for three to four hours at about 190°F.  Add new chips about every hour.  Nutria will be cooked when the thickest parts are at least 180°F using a meat thermometer. To retain moisture in the meat during the smoking process, close the smoker and add some apple cider in the moisture pan at the bottom of the smoker.

4. After nutria is cooked, use a fork to shred the meat and separate from the bones.  Place shredded meat in a bowl and mix with about a cup of barbecue sauce.


Slow-cooked Nutria
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

Serves four

2 hind saddle portions of nutria meat
1 small onion, sliced thinly
1 tomato, cut into big wedges
2 potatoes, sliced thinly
2 carrots, sliced thinly
8 Brussels sprouts
1/4 glass white wine
1 cup water
2 teaspoons chopped garlic

1. Layer onion, tomato, potatoes, carrots and Brussels sprouts in a slow cooker.

2. Season nutria with salt, pepper and garlic, and place it over vegetables.

3. Add wine and water, cook on a low heat until meat is tender (approximately 1 1/2 hours).

4. Garnish with vegetables.


Nutria, Wild boar, and crawfish egg roll towers
From Prejeans Restaurant in Lafayette, Louisiana

What’s not to love about this recipe, which calls for not one but three invaders?

Makes 20 egg rolls

2 1/2 pounds ground nutria
1/2 pound ground wild boar
1/2 pound crawfish tails, chopped fine
1/2 cup water chestnuts, chopped
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 1/2 tablespoons Thai-style seasoning
20 egg roll wrappers
1 egg, beaten
Peanut oil for deep-frying

1. In a large bowl, mix the nutria, wild boar, crawfish, water chestnuts, mushrooms, onions, and Thai seasoning. Brown the mixture in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.

2. Remove from the heat, drain, and cool.

3. Place 2 ounces of the mixture in each egg roll wrapper. Follow directions on the wrapper package for rolling and sealing the egg rolls.

4. Pour 3 inches of oil into a heavy, deep saucepan. Heat the oil to 350 degrees. Fry the egg rolls until golden brown.

5. Place three egg rolls in another wrapper and brush the edges of the wrapper with the beaten egg. Fold the edges over to create a bundle. Repeat until you have used up all the egg rolls. Fry the bundles until golden brown.

6. Slice open each bundle across the top on the bias. Place the egg rolls upright on a plate and serve with a sweet and spicy sauce.

    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    veni harlan July 4, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    Love this website and plan to highlight it often on our Facebook page!

    Meet Marsh Dog! We’re a company that makes all-natural dog biscuits using wild Louisiana nutria and locally grown produce.

    Each year the state spends a considerable amount of $ to harvest nutria and minimize the damage they inflict on coastal marsh. Only a very small number of these harvested nutria are used for fur with the remainder wasted. Nutria may be bad for wetlands but they’re a great protein source for dogs—leaner than turkey or chicken and hormone-free.

    Established with a grant in 2011 from The Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (, we’re on a mission to employ man’s best friend to help in the fight to conserve our wetlands. Along the way, we hope to educate a few humans about wetlands and invasive species as well as support regional farmers.

    Check us out at

    Tastes good. Does good!


    Leave a Comment

    { 1 trackback }



    Wild Pig

    Did the domestic ancestors of today’s feral pigs streak off De Soto’s ship into the Florida scrub of their own accord in 1539? Or did they have to be urged to go find something to eat? All you need to…

      EAT ME!

      Garden Snail

      Deliberately or accidentally, by the movement of plants and by hobbyists who collect snails, humans have spread the garden snail to temperate and subtropical zones around the world.

        EAT ME!

        Garlic Mustard

          Alliaria petiolata Native range: Europe, Asia, Northwest Africa Invasive range: Much of the Lower 48, Alaska, and Canada. (See map.) Habitat: Moist, shaded soil of floodplains, forests, roadsides, edges of woods, and forest openings. Often dominant in disturbed areas. Description: Biennial herb. First-year plant has a rosette of green leaves close to the ground. [...]

          EAT ME!
          nopales con huevo

          Prickly Pear

          Fall is here, and the “cactus fig” is in season. Time to plate-up another widespread invader.

            EAT ME!
            Screen Shot 2012-11-18 at 8.02.21 AM

            Sow Thistle

            It’s spring and time to weed. Sow thistle is a delicious invader found throughout the continent.

              EAT ME!



              Asian Shore Crab

              The first sighting of the Asian shore crab in the United States was at Townsend Inlet, Cape May County, New Jersey, in 1988. Though the source is unknown . . .

                EAT ME!


                The common periwinkle, which first appeared in New England in the 1860s, is now found along the coast wherever there’s hard substrate–rocks, riprap, broken concrete, or docks–from Labrador to . . .

                  EAT ME!
                  Pterois volitans


                  Some say it started in 1992 in Miami when Hurricane Andrew smashed an aquarium tank. Don’t blame the weather, others say; in the mid-nineties, disappointed yet softhearted hobbyists…

                    EAT ME!
                    chuka wakame


                      Undaria pinnatifida Native range: Japan Sea Invasive range: Southern California, San Francisco Bay, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, Argentina Habitat: Opportunistic seaweed, can be found on hard substrates including rocky reefs, pylons, buoys, boat hulls, and abalone and bivalve shells. Description: Golden brown seaweed, growing up to nine feet. Forms thick canopy. Reproductive sporophyll in [...]

                      EAT ME!

                      Green Crab

                      Since the green crab was first recorded off southern Massachusetts in 1817, it has been hard to ignore. A few minutes of rock-flipping in Maine can turn up dozens of them, brandishing their claws as they retreat…

                        EAT ME!


                        Armored Catfish Meatballs (1)

                        Armored Catfish

                        The armored catfish is abundant and destructive in Florida, Texas, and Mexico. Cast your nets for these flavorful natives of the Amazon. Scientific name: Two types have become established in North America: armadillo del rio, Hypostomus plecostomus, and sailfin catfishes in genus Pterygoplichthys Native range: Amazon River Basin Invasive range: Texas, Florida, and Hawaii; also [...]

                          EAT ME!
                          Picture 1

                          Common Carp

                          For a bottom-feeder, what is the good life? The common carp isn’t very demanding: any body of water that’s sluggish and murky will do. If the water is clean, and you’ve got corn for bait, try one of these recipes.

                            EAT ME!


                              Nasturtium officianale Native Range: Northern Africa, Europe, temperate Asia, and India Invasive Range: In USA: all lower 48 states, except North Dakota. Found in Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Also southern Canada, Sub-Saharan Africa, South America, Australasia, and parts of tropical Asia. Habitat: Common along stream margins, ditches, and other areas with [...]

                              EAT ME!


                                There are numerous invasive crayfish. We include details for the red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) and the rusty crayfish (Orenectes rusticus). The same recipes can be used for both species–and many other invasive crayfish. Red Swamp Crayfish Native range: Known as Louisiana crayfish, crawdad, and mudbug, Procambarus clarkii is native to the south central [...]

                                EAT ME!


                                Nutria, also known as coypu and river rat, is native to temperate and subtropical South America. It has been introduced to Europe, Asia, and Africa, mainly for fur farming. These voracious. . .

                                  EAT ME!

                                  Field Notes

                                  Screen Shot 2021-05-17 at 8.52.31 AM

                                  National Invasive Species Awareness Week

                                  Join the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon on May 20, between 11 am and 3 pm EDT. Learn to edit Wikipedia and help improve articles about invasive species. Register here.

                                    EAT ME!
                                    Screen Shot 2021-04-06 at 10.39.51 AM

                                    Kudzu in Architecture, Cuisine, and Culture

                                    Before it took over Southern landscapes, the invasive vine was once called the “savior of the South.” Artists, designers, and chefs are trying to render it useful. Read about the role of kudzu in architecture, cuisine, and culture in Southerly.

                                      EAT ME!

                                      A Reporter Invites Dandelions to Lunch

                                      On the 400th anniversary of dandelions’ arrival in America with European colonists, the once-esteemed weed can be found almost everywhere — except on our plates. Reporter Gene Tempest asks why Americans soured on the dandelion and whether–like many medicinal or historical foods–it was ever good eating. She sets out to prepare a light dandelion lunch [...]

                                        EAT ME!
                                        Screen Shot 2020-10-18 at 9.08.24 AM

                                        Murder Hornet Eludes Washington State Scientists

                                        Researchers in Washington State have lost track of an Asian giant hornet they were following — a stinging setback in the pursuit to eradicate an invasive species that threatens to decimate North American bee populations. Listen on NPR and read about hornet cuisine in Japan.

                                          EAT ME!
                                          Screen Shot 2020-10-06 at 1.51.22 PM

                                          When Invasive Species Become the Meal

                                          Invasivore campaigns are part of a broader movement to reduce, if not eradicate, invasive species. Educational websites such as Eat the Invaders, founded in 2011 by Joe Roman, a conservation biologist at the University of Vermont, and slogans like “If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em” frame what might otherwise be merely an epicurean decision [...]

                                            EAT ME!

                                            “What’s a weed?  What’s a flower?”

                                            —Dirk Fucik on the image problem of the Asian carp as food, Dirk’s Fish & Gourmet Shop, Chicago

                                            Previous post:

                                            Next post: