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John's Journal... Entry 181, Day 1


A Call to War Against Nutria

EDITOR'S NOTE: Nutria, semi-aquatic rodents with the proper name of coypu, have eaten away at Louisiana's marshlands for some years. The federal government has sent Louisiana $2 million to fight the war on nutria. These l2- to 18-pound demons detrimentally impact about 100,000 acres of wildlife-rich marshlands each year. If someone doesn't stop them, other coastal states may face drastic land loss thanks to these furry Argentine invaders. So, now predator hunters have a new predator to hunt. And sportsmen who get permission to hunt nutria from Louisiana landowners can get paid for the nutria tails they harvest.


I've enlisted and begun to fight in the War for the Nursery. I've slain some of the enemies, and I've brought back a report from the battlefield. Outdoorsmen must win the little-known war that's raging on Louisiana's Gulf Coast, or fishermen across the nation - including those who fish the Gulf of Mexico - will suffer. Uncle Sam needs you to fight in the second Battle of New Orleans. The invaders landed more than 60-years ago, but now Louisiana has sent out a call to arms to all predator hunters. As my friend Bo Hamilton of Baratria, Louisiana, and I slipped through the marsh silently and quietly in his mud boat, we spotted a V shape in the water and a brown head that looked like a small beaver. A furry creature about 1-foot long with a 1-1/2-foot-long tail crawled out on the bank. Bo Hamilton touched off the trigger of his .12 gauge, and the nutria rolled up in a heap. Because I'd never seen a nutria before, I wanted to get a closer look at this marsh-destroying creature. The nutria resembled a giant muskrat with big canine teeth much like a beaver's. It had brown, fluffy fur and webbed back feet. Although a rodent, it had a more flattened tail instead of a round tail like a rat.

"Let's go get another one," Hamilton said. As we eased down the marsh, we spotted another nutria. "When it gets on the bank, John, take it," Hamilton instructed. "Prepare to shoot quickly because it won't stop once it hits the bank." I readied for the shot. Once the nutria climbed out on the bank, I took it. "We can get out on the bank and hunt nutria in the marsh and jump-shoot them like we do rabbits," Hamilton explained. "But you can cover more ground and find more nutria from a boat than you can by stomping through the marsh. We won't have any problems shooting all the nutria we care to shoot today. On an average day's hunt, one hunter may harvest as many as 30 to 50 nutria."

If you think western hunters enjoy prairie-dog shooting, then head to south Louisiana to hunt nutria this year. You'll find a target-rich environment and a state that welcomes all those who want to take these marsh menaces. In 2-1/2- hours of nutria hunting, Hamilton and I took and boated nine nutria -- more than enough for our friend Morgan Perrin to create a delicious nutria sauce picante.


The federal government and the state of Louisiana have posted a $4-per-tail reward on all the nutria harvested by hunters and trappers during the Louisiana trapping season. However, you don't have to wait until trapping season to start hunting nutria for fun. The recreational season on nutria (where you can't collect the $4 per tail) opens September 1 and lasts through February 28. You must have the permission of the landowner and a valid hunting license to hunt the nutria. Too, many of the state wildlife management areas (WMAs) permit recreational hunting of nutria. An out-of-state hunter can hunt nutria during the recreational season on these lands and also can purchase a trapper's license for trapping season.

For information on the World Championship Nutria Hunt or to go nutria hunting, call the Lodge of Louisiana at (504) 689-0000, or visit the Web site at www.lodgeoflouisiana.com.



Check back each day this week for more about THE WAR AGAINST NUTRIA ...

Day 1 - A Call to War Against Nutria
Day 2 - The History of Nutria
Day 3 - Nutria Hunting for Money
Day 4 - Nutria Festivities
Day 5 - How Nutria Have Affected Inshore Fish Populations

John's Journal