SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The California Department of Fish & Wildlife is hosting a cool youth art contest and the subjects are nutrias.
But what is a nutria? Any guesses?
Watch the video to see the giant rodent, an invasive species in California that is originally from South America.
In the early 1900s nutria were imported and farmed in the California fur trade. The market collapsed and escaped and released nutria established small populations that were eventually eradicated, by the late 70s. In 2017 the nutria were discovered again in California in the San Joaquin Valley.
The nutrias usually live near waterways and levees. Fish & Wildlife officers are calling nutria a "triple threat" to California's future as a top-rated agricultural pest, a destroyer of critical wetlands that are needed by native wildlife, and say they are a public safety risk because their destructive burrowing jeopardizes the state's water delivery and flood control infrastructure.
The California Department of Fish & Wildlife are partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture to survey and eradicate nutria from the state.
So far 410 nutria have been taken or confirmed in five of California's counties. Most (330) were from Merced County. 65 were from San Joaquin County, 12 were from Stanislaus County, two from Mariposa County and one from Fresno County. Nutria have also been confirmed in Tuolumne County.
Fish & Wildlife has secured more than three million dollars in state and federal grants to support eradication of the nutria here in California.
They are planning to use detection dogs in the future to help locate remnant nutria or confirm their absence from an area. They are also in the early stages of developing a "Judas nutria" project where surgically steriliized nutria are outfitted with radio telemetry collars and released back into the environment to lead biologists to other nutria. They are considered to be very social animals.
The California eradication efforts are modeled after efforts used in the Chesapeake Bay in the 2000s. The federal government was able to remove more than 14,000 nutria from 250,000 acres in the Dalmarva Peninsula.
Nutria are established in more than a dozen U.S. states, including Washington, Oregon, and most notably, Lousiana. The Chesapeake Bay effort remains the only successful, large-scale nutria eradication effort in U.S. history.
WATCH THE VIDEO
Show this video to the kids you know. Do they think the semi-aquatic nutria are cute? Gross?
The Department of Fish & Wildlife wants more people to know about the giant rodent. They are sponsoring an art contest featuring the nutria and are hoping kids will help spread the word and the image of what a nutria actually looks like.
California Invasive Species Action Week's Youth Art Contest
Youth in second through 12th grade can begin submitting entries for the California Invasive Species Action Week's Youth Art Contest.
This year's theme is "Say No to Nutria" and features this new invasive species in California. Participants can help inform people of the danger posed by nutria.
Artwork might be an identification guide, an illustration of nutria's biology or impacts, a public service announcement, or a graphic showing how one could search for nutria. All types of media are welcome, including drawings, paintings, animations, comic strips, videos, public service announcements and campaign posters.
Submissions must include a completed entry form and be received by May 3. For more information, please use this link.