Wildlife Officials Declare the Invasive Nutria Officially Eradicated From Maryland

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Wildlife officials declared this week that the invasive rodent nutria has officially been eradicated from the state of Maryland. 

According to the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, the Chesapeake Bay Nutria Eradication Project made the official announcement that Maryland is officially nutria-free. The plan to remove the invasive rodent from the east coast state has been in the works for more than 20 years. 

It was revealed that the nutria was first introduced to the Delmarva peninsula in Maryland. They came from South America in the 1940s. This was done for the fur market. However, since then, they have decimated thousands of acres of marshes with their feeding habits. The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge was significantly impacted by the rodents. The area lost more than 5,000 acres of wetlands through a combination of nutria impacts, sea-level rise, and land subsidence. 

Service Director, Martha Williams, spoke about the rodent’s removal. “The Chesapeake Bay Nutria Eradication Project is an excellent example of foresight and collaboration. This project is a powerful case study for how federal and state agencies can work closely together to achieve a shared goal that benefits the environment and the community.”

 The United States Fish & Wildlife Service further reported that the nutria eradication was possible through the coordination of both federal and state agencies. The agencies worked closely with the public as well as private landowners. One-half of the 14,000 rodents were removed during the project from private lands, thanks to more than 700 participating landowners. This in return protected over 250,000 acres of marsh on Maryland’s Delmarva Peninsula. 

Chesapeake Bay Nutria Eradication Project Used Various Techniques to Detect & Remove the Rodents From Maryland 

Meanwhile, the Chesapeake Bay Nutria Eradication (CBNEP) Project used multiple techniques to detect and remove nutria from Maryland. It was noted that highly trained detector dogs helped with the removal. The dogs were trained to detect scat. This made it easier to find the rodents on the “expansive landscape.” 

Kevin Sullivan, USDA-Wildlife Services State Director, also spoke about the nutrias removal. “This project was only possible due to the outstanding collaboration between private, state, and federal partners. This, coupled with science-based wildlife management and research, led to eradication success. Historic tools, such as trapping and wildlife surveys, were integrated by wildlife biologists with new technology and detector dogs. These tools were applied by dedicated individuals to find nutria every day.”

Sullivan went on to add, “Due to this hard work, partnership, and perseverance, we are excited to announce this destructive invasive species will no longer be damaging and destroying the marshes of Delmarva.”

The CBNEP is administered by the Service’s Chesapeake Bay Field Office Coastal Program and Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex. It is funded through the Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife and refuge programs.