Posts Tagged ‘John Acorn’

The nutria or coypu is a big wet (introduced) rodent!

I used to look forward to watching John Acorn’s The Nature Nut every day.

It used to be on Animal Planet at 6:30 AM, so I would make certain that I was ready to go by 6:30 every morning– just so I could watch it.

John Acorn is a Canadian entomologist centered in Edmonton, Alberta, but he covered a wide range of natural history topics on his show.  There was even a wonderful episode about how to think skeptically. That episode centered around the existence of bigfoot, and he gave a wonderful presentation on the principle of parsimony. He also did a show on how to care for various pet reptiles, which he said were the only pets he could have because of his allergies.

The show always featured a great comedic music video, which were in a class of their own!

One episode was about beavers. However, the take on beavers was quite different from anything else I remember seeing on the show. John Acorn created a holiday– Big Wet Rodent Day.  Big Wet Rodent Day was set up for July 26th, and during this day, we are to celebrate beavers and their role in Canada’s history.

The music video for that episode had a great Canadian patriotic song about the history of man and beaver in the northern part of North America. I wish I could find a copy of the song somewhere so you could hear it, but I have it stuck in my head.

However, I think that Big Wet Rodent Day should be international, and we should celebrate more big wet rodents than beavers.

Dave at the Little Heelers blog decided to feature the mountain beaver or Aplodontia on his Big Wet Rodent Day post. Mountain beavers are big and wet not because they are aquatic but because they live in temperate rainforests.

In that same spirit, I think I’m going to celebrate another big wet rodent, but mine is an aquatic rodent. However, mine is not native to North America or Europe, but it has been introduced there.  They have even been introduced to parts of Africa.

The creature I’m talking about is most accurately called a coypu, and it is a large aquatic rodent native to southern South America. It has a long, rat-like tail, and it might be confused with a large muskrat. However, unlike the muskrat, which actually is closely related to rats and mice, the coypu is a Caviomorph rodent. Its closest relatives are the capybara and the various cavies (guinea pigs).

The coypu was introduced to North America as a fur-bearer.  The fur industry sold the fur as “nutria,” which is Spanish for otter, and the name has stuck with it. The market for its fur collapsed rather quickly, and these animals were released into the wild. They are now found in many states in the United States and in parts of Canada, but they are perhaps most numerous in the state of Louisiana. In Louisiana, the “tabasco rat” has worked  its way into Cajun table fare. From my sources in Louisiana, this animal is heavily hunted, but hunting has done very little to control its numbers.

So on this Big Wet Rodent Day, remember the nutria or coypu. It may be an invasive species, but it’s got some very wicked orange teeth.



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