Illinois Bowfisherman Arguably Has the Most Bizarre Harvest of the Year: A Mature Capybara

by Chris Haney

In what was an usual sight to say the least, a bowfisherman in Illinois brought home an unexpected catch from his fishing trip. While bowfishing in Randolph County, the man harvested a mature capybara – the world’s largest rodent.

Capybaras are huge rodents that are native to South America. They reach sizes that are around twice as big as a beaver, often weighing in at over 170 pounds. A southern Illinois hunting group featured the unnamed man’s unique kill on their Facebook page earlier this week on Tuesday, July 19. According to 618 Hunting, the capybara in Illinois weighed somewhere in the department of 80 to 90 pounds.

As of now, there is no evidence as to how the capybara made its way to Illinois. 618 Hunting shared that the bowfisherman came across the rodent off of Marys River, which is a tributary of the Mississippi River. However, reports suggest that the most likely explanation is that a local kept it as a pet.

Capybaras have become increasingly popular to own as pets, and several states allow people to have them. Those states include Arizona, Arkansas, Texas, Florida, Indiana, Nevada, Washington, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Owners claim the large exotic rodents are intelligent and friendly, and say they make good pets. For that reason, the unnamed bowfisherman has come under some scrutiny for possibly killing someone’s pet that got loose.

In 618 Hunting’s post, the account shared that they’ve received numerous negative comments about the kill. Yet since it’s not a native animal to Illinois, the account said it “could possibly cause damage to other native species.” The bowfisherman supposedly notified a local game warden who did not file charges against him.

A Small Population of Wild Capybara Live in Northern Florida

While the single capybara was definitely out of place in Illinois, last year Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo welcomed three of the large rodents to their facilities for the first time in 40 years. Outside of Illinois though, there is allegedly a wild breeding population of the animals living in northern Florida.

According to Science News, researchers have observed the capybaras and studied them since at least 2016. As of August 2016, they documented around 50 of the rodents in the area. They believe the capybaras first came to the area after escaping from a Gainesville wildlife research facility in 1995. Biologist and capybara researcher Elizabeth Congdon spoke with Science News back in 2016 about the phenomenon.

“Several sightings suggest they have been breeding,” Congdon said to the outlet. “They might be able to make a go of it in the United States.”

The biologist and her team of graduate students observed the capybara population in Florida for numerous reasons. A primary reason for their research was to figure out if the rodents would become an invasive species. Evidently the large animals share many similar traits to the nutria, which have their own unique history in our country.

The nutria rodent is an invasive, semi-aquatic animal that’s now found in 20 states. The rodents were introduced to the U.S. in the early 1900s and have caused serious damage to aquatic ecosystems ever since, according to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). After decades of established breeding populations, there’s little to no hope of extirpation of nutria rodents.