Louisiana's $12.5 million nutria control program finalized

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State sets start date for nutria trapping

Program intended to help wetlands

08/06/02

By Aaron Kuriloff, St. Bernard/Plaquemines bureau/The Times-Picayune

A state program to pay trappers for their help in controlling the nutria ravaging Louisiana's wetlands will begin just before Thanksgiving.

The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission voted Thursday to set the statewide fur trapping season from Nov. 20 to March 31 and pay hundreds of trappers a $4-per-tail bounty under the new $12.5 million Coastwide Nutria Control Program.

The program seeks to provide trappers, many of whom retired 10 years ago after a collapse in fur prices, with a financial incentive for killing the animals. Experts estimate that nutria destroy thousands of acres of already-eroding marshland annually by feeding off the plants that hold sediment in place.

Officials hope that with the bounty supplementing the proceeds that trappers can earn selling nutria hides and meat, the program will help rid the state of at least 400,000 of the buck-toothed rodents during the upcoming trapping season.

Officials also hope the bounty might help revive the trapping industry.

In the mid-1980s, Louisiana issued about 2,500 licenses a year to trappers who caught up to 1.8 million nutria at an average price of $8 per pelt, said Edmund Mouton, a biologist with the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Last year, the state issued about 500 licenses to trappers who culled fewer than 20,000 animals at prices rarely exceeding $1 per pelt.

In the meantime, Mouton said, the nutria population continues to expand, with females producing litters every 130 days or so, raising more than 20 young per year. Since their introduction from Argentina in the 1930s, nutria have eaten an estimated 100,000 acres of marsh, he said.

More than 100 trappers attended meetings throughout the New Orleans area several weeks ago to learn how to enroll in the program. For information, call Jeffery Marx at (337) 373-0032.

. . . . . . .

Aaron Kuriloff can be reached at

akuriloff@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3836.
 

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