Tag Archives: nutria

The Vegetative State

It is a mystery of modern medical science as to how a person (me, for example) can do what amounts to almost nothing and still end up physically exhausted and mentally drained. 

Of course, I do work 8-9 hours a day, Monday through Friday.  “Work” for me, though, involves a lot of observing, communicating, and supervising.  (Q:  How many managers does it take to change a light bulb?  A:  Only one.  But it takes two employees–one to hold the ladder and the other to actually change the bulb.)  On Friday, that 8-9 hours turned into 12, which turned out to be my limit–or slightly beyond it. 

On Saturday morning, I did the NY Times crossword puzzle online with Fakesister, as usual, and that was the last hurrah for my brain for the day.  I spent the rest of the day unapologetically vegetating.  And what does it take to truly vegetate?  Television, of course. 

First, I watched a Tarzan movie.  “Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle” with Gordon Scott as Tarzan.  The movie was made in 1955 and was one of only four with Scott as Tarzan.  I’ll never forget the first time I ever saw someone other than Johnny Weissmuller playing Tarzan.  I was shocked to the depth of my being.  It was at that point that my mother had to explain to me that Tarzan was not a real person, and that these were actors.  I already knew about Santa and the Easter Bunny, but this was something different.  This was total betrayal.  Having no choice, I finally adjusted to it, but I have forever remained loyal to Johnny Weissmuller.  If it isn’t him, it isn’t Tarzan.  Gordon Scott, by the way, manages to do all sorts of jungly ape-man things, like rescuing a damsel in distress from a raging river, without one hair on his 1950’s haircut ever being rearranged.  Tarzan with hairspray. 

I watched an episode of Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero that I had actually seen before.  It focuses primarily on the the construction challenges, the design, and the architecture of the Memorial, but that’s inseparable from the emotional content of the project.  To give you one small example:  the two reflecting pools that will sit on the footprints of the two towers will have the names of the victims etched in bronze on plates around the edges of the pools.  One day, one of the construction supervisors is permitted to go to the plant where the etching work is taking place.  He is allowed to press the button which starts the etching machine, and then he watches as the machine engraves the name of his baby brother.  His brother was lost on 9/11 and his remains were never found.  Once the metal cools, he touches the letters and says “This is my brother now.”  As a result of watching this show, I am determined to one day go to NYC and see it.  (Spencercourt, when the time comes I will be calling on you for travel advice.)

Finally, I watched a couple of episodes of “The Invaders” on the National Geographic Wild channel, about invasive animal species.  One was about hippos in Columbia, which were part of Pablo Escobar’s menagerie.  What is it with these bad guys who like to keep collections of exotic animals?  Besides Escobar, Uday Hussein comes to mind.  In any case, what should another of these invasive animals be but my old friend, the nutria?  I never before realized how actually dangerous they are.  They carry diseases and parasites of all kinds, most seriously, tularemia and leptospirosis.  And not only that.  In Maryland, where they appear to have the most serious problem with them outside of Louisiana, Federal Wildlife officials are on a mission to eradicate them from the Delmarva Peninsula.  They use Labrador Retrievers to track them, but the dogs are fitted with special collars which cover their entire throats, because cornered nutria will go for the jugular with tooth and claw.  And to think I used to watch them swim in, and sometimes hang out on the banks of, Lake Ponchartrain.  Luckily my dog, who was always with me, was pretty incurious. 

This is a kind of snapshot of the kinds of things that interest me.  From Tarzan to 9/11 to nutria.  It’s no wonder I’m tired.

Another Edition of FN’s Animal Planet

In keeping with the Lousiana theme of this weekend’s posts, today we will take a look at the Nutria.  Nutria are rodents, whose Latin name is a combination of “mouse” and “beaver”.  They look like a beaver with a rat’s tail.  I used to see them swimming all the time in Lake Ponchartrain.  And they aren’t small.  They average 12 pounds, but can grow to weigh 20 pounds.  Below is a little family of them. 

Nutria family

Cute, huh?  Well, Nutria are the kudzu of the animal world.  They were imported to Avery Island, Lousiana by someone in the McIlhenny family (makers of Tabasco Sauce) with the idea of farming them for fur.  The only problem is, it takes more labor to harvest the fur than the fur is worth.  The outer coat consists of long “guard hairs”.  While the undercoat is soft, it’s hard to separate the two coats.

“Their only two purposes in life appear to be to eat and to reproduce, and they perform both these functions exceptionally well.  They use over 50% of their metabolism for reproduction, and are born pregnant.”  Okay, I’m lying.  That’s a description of Tribbles.  But Nutria and Tribbles are definitely related. 

It didn’t take long for Nutria to escape Avery Island and populate the coast of Louisiana.  How did that happen?  Well duh, they swim.  From a few initial pairs, it’s estimated that Lousiana now has 20 to 30 million of them.  (From the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.)http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/invnutriafaq.asp  And they have destroyed thousands of acres of wetlands, because they eat the plants.

In Metairie, in Jefferson Parish, they were causing another problem.  They burrowed into the banks of a large drainage canal and were causing the banks to collapse.   So the powers-that-be in Parish government started  to try to come up with creative ways to handle the problem.    In neighboring Orleans Parish, where I lived at the time, they held a contest which various famous chefs participated in (such as Paul Prudhomme), to come up with new and tasty ways to use Nutria as food.  Oh yuck!  Who wants to eat a rat?  While I was gagging on this idea one day at work, one of my employees informed me that she and her family used to eat them all the time when she was a child.  They were surviving on what her father could fish for, or hunt or trap.  I gather Nutria wasn’t their favorite choice, but she said it was kind of okay if you put it in something like a stew, and beggars can’t be choosers.

Another idea Jefferson Parish had was to trap them and transport them elsewhere in these special trucks that were padded on the inside.  That turned out to be too expensive, and in any case there was the problem of, Where do you take them?  (Sort of the same problem the Enterprise had with the Tribbles.)

Then they came up with the idea of floating poisoned carrots and lettuce on these little rafts.  That idea got nixed, because people protested that a child might accidentally get hold of the poisoned food. 

Finally they settled on the old-fashioned way.  The sheriff’s department started shooting them.  Around dusk, a whole posse of sheriff’s deputies would gather on the banks of the canal and wait for the nutria to come out of their burrows.  This solution had the added benefit of giving the sheriff’s deputies shooting practice.

I don’t know if they’re still doing it today or not.  I leave you with another picture of one of the little fellows (the Nutria, not the sheriff’s deputies).  You’re probably asking youself, what are those orange things in it’s mouth?  That’s his front teeth!

Nutria teeth