AppearanceThe coypu somewhat resembles a very large rat, or a beaver with a small tail. Adults are typically 5–9 kg in weight, and 40–60 cm in body length, with a 30- to 45-cm tail. They have coarse, darkish brown outer fur with soft dense grey under fur, also called the nutria. Three distinguishing features are a white patch on the muzzle, webbed hind feet, and large, bright orange-yellow incisors....hieroglyph snipped... The nipples of female coypu are high on her flanks, to allow their young to feed while the female is in the water.
A coypu may be mistaken for a muskrat, another widely dispersed, semiaquatic rodent that occupies the same wetland habitats. The muskrat, however, is smaller and more tolerant of cold climates, and has a laterally flattened tail it uses to assist in swimming, whereas the tail of a coypu is round. It can also be mistaken for a small beaver, as beavers and coypus have very similar anatomies. However, beavers' tails are flat and paddle-like, as opposed to the round, rat-like tails of coypus.
NamingTwo names are commonly used in English for ''Myocastor coypus''. The name "nutria" is generally used in North America, in Asia, and throughout countries of the former Soviet Union; however, in Spanish-speaking countries, the word "nutria" refers to the otter. To avoid this ambiguity, the name "coypu" is used in Latin America and Europe. In France, the coypu is known as a ''ragondin''. In Dutch, it is known as ''beverrat'' . In German, it is known as ''Wasserratte'' . In Italy, instead, the popular name is, as in North America and Asia, "nutria", but it is also called ''castorino'' , by which its fur is known in Italy.
In Brazil the animal is known as ''ratão-do-banhado'', ''nútria'' or ''caxingui'' .
DistributionThe distribution of coypus tends to contract or expand with successive cold or mild winters. During cold winters, coypus often suffer frostbite on their tails, leading to infection or death. As a result, populations of coypus often contract and even become locally or regionally extinct as in the Scandinavian countries and such US states as Idaho, Montana, and Nebraska during the 1980s. During mild winters, their ranges tend to expand northward. For example in recent years, range expansions have been noted in Washington and Oregon, as well as Delaware.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, nutria were first introduced the United States in California, in 1899. They were first brought to Louisiana in the early 1930s for the fur industry, and the population was kept in check, or at a small population size, because of trapping pressure from the fur traders."Worldwide Distribution, Spread of, and Efforts to Eradicate the Nutria ." 2011. USGS: NWRC. Retrieved 2011-10-25. The earliest account of nutria spreading freely into Louisiana wetlands from their enclosures was in the early 1940s; a hurricane hit the Louisiana coast for which many people were unprepared, and the storm destroyed the enclosures, enabling the nutria to escape into the wild. According to the Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries, nutria were also transplanted from Port Arthur, Texas, to the Mississippi River in 1941 and then spread due to a hurricane later that year."Nutria History." 2007. Nutria.com. LDWF. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
HabitatLocal extinction in their native range due to overharvesting led to the development of coypu fur farms in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The first farms were in Argentina and then later in Europe, North America, and Asia. These farms have generally not been successful long-term investments, and farmed coypu often are released or escape as operations become unprofitable.
As demand for coypu fur declined, coypu have since become pests in many areas, destroying aquatic vegetation, marshes, and irrigation systems, and chewing through human-made items, such as tires and wooden house panelling in Louisiana, eroding river banks, and displacing native animals. Coypus were introduced to the Louisiana ecosystem in the 1930s, when they escaped from fur farms that had imported them from South America. Damage in Louisiana has been sufficiently severe since the 1950s to warrant legislative attention; in 1958, the first bounty was placed on nutria, though this effort was not funded.:3 By the early 2000s, the Coastwide Nutria Control Program was established, which began paying bounties for nutria killed in 2002.:19–20 In the Chesapeake Bay region in Maryland, where they were introduced in the 1940s, coypus are believed to have destroyed 7,000 to 8,000 acres of marshland in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. In response, by 2003, a multimillion dollar eradication program was underway.
In the United Kingdom, coypus were introduced to East Anglia, for fur, in 1929; many escaped and damaged the drainage works, and a concerted programme by MAFF eradicated them by 1989. However, in 2012, a 'giant rat' was killed in County Durham, with authorities suspecting the animal was, in fact, a coypu.
Coypu meat is lean and low in cholesterol. While many attempts have been made to establish markets for coypu meat, all documented cases have generally been unsuccessful. Unscrupulous entrepreneurs have promoted coypu and coypu farms for their value as "meat", "fur", or "aquatic weed control". In recent years, they have done so in countries such as the United States, China, Taiwan, and Thailand. In every documented case, the entrepreneurs sell coypu "breeding stock" at very high prices. Would-be coypu farmers find the markets for their products disappear after the promoter has left.
On June 27, 2013, CNN reported a product, "Barataria Bites", wild nutria dog biscuits were being made by siblings Hansel and Veni Harlan under the brand name "Marsh Dog". The product is a dog treat made with coypu, brown rice, oats, sweet potatoes, whole eggs, parsley, cayenne, and black-strap molasses. The report identified the product as being sold in south Louisiana for about a year with great success according to the business owner. At the February 23, 2013 Governor's Conservation Achievement Award event, Marsh Dog was awarded "Business Conservationist" for creating a market for nutria....hieroglyph snipped...
In the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, specifically Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, nutria are farmed on private plots and sold in local markets as a poor man's meat.
In addition to direct environmental damage, coypus are the host for a nematode parasite that can infect the skin of humans, causing dermatitis similar to strongyloidiasis. The condition is also called "nutria itch".
EvolutionCoypus can live up to six years in captivity, but individuals uncommonly live past three years old; according to one study, 80% of coypus die within the first year, and less than 15% of a wild population is over three years old. Male coypus reach sexual maturity as early as four months, and females as early as three months; however, both can have a prolonged adolescence, up to the age of 9 months. Once a female is pregnant, gestation lasts 130 days, and she may give birth to as few as one or as many as 13 offspring. Baby coypus are born fully furred and with open eyes; they can eat vegetation with their parents within hours of birth. A female coypu can become pregnant again the day after she gives birth to her young. If timed properly, a female can become pregnant three times within a year. Newborn coypus nurse for seven to eight weeks, after which they leave their mothers.
Besides breeding quickly, each coypu consumes large amounts of vegetation. An individual consumes about 25% of its body weight daily, and feeds year-round. Being one of the world's larger extant rodents, a mature, healthy coypu averages 5.4 kg in weight, but they can reach as much as 10 kg . They eat the base of the above-ground stems of plants, and often will dig through the organic soil for roots and rhizomes to eat. Their creation of "eat-outs", areas where a majority of the above- and below-ground biomass has been removed, produces patches in the environment, which in turn disrupts the habitat for other animals and humans dependent on marshes.
Coypus are found most commonly in freshwater marshes, but also inhabit brackish marshes and rarely salt marshes.
Some text fragments are auto parsed from Wikipedia.