||Wednesday, October 11, 2000
||I'd like to see a picture of the rats in Florida that are the size of dogs.
||The rats you describe are nutria.
There is a picture of a nutria at these Web sites:
The following is an AP account that describes the nutria. It was archived at this Internet address:
Tuesday, November 18, 1997
Giant rats roam Florida
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Like something escaped from a mad scientist's
laboratory, the monstrous rodents creep through the underbrush.
Don't worry, these critters just want some salad.
These rats -- as big as the family dog and weighing more than a
Thanksgiving turkey -- are nutria, roaming eastern Hillsborough County
as the result of commercialism gone to seed.
"I saw this humongous rat on the road," said JoAnn Hoffmann, who
encountered a nutria while driving to work. "My jaw just dropped."
The nutria are the remnants of a get-rich-quick scheme some 40 years
ago, said Bill Kern, urban wildlife specialist with the Florida Cooperative
Entrepreneurs imported nutria -- an extremely large South American
aquatic rat -- to start a fur trade in Florida. But people didn't want to
walk around in coats or mittens made of the hide or fur of 3-foot-long
rats with naked, scaly tails.
"The prices dropped so low, nobody bothered to trap them," Kern said
in Monday's editions of the Tampa Tribune.
The nutria found homes along lakes, drainage ditches and ponds at dairy
farms. Exclusively vegetarian, they dine on aquatic plants.
The nutria are not considered game animals, so it's always open season
on them. Just don't expect to get rich as a trapper: A nutria pelt might
fetch $4, Kern said.