[Warning: photos of dead nutria.]
Scenes from the Nutria Rodeo, which returned to Plaquemines Parish this past weekend. Over 48 hours, more than 200 hunters killed and collected close to 1,500 nutria, competing for cash prizes for the largest team haul, largest single nutria, and the farthest nutria toss in the parking lot after all boats had returned Saturday evening.
The large rodents—some weighing upwards of 20 pounds—are considered an invasive species in South Louisiana, and with dwindling demand for their fur, uncontrolled populations have sped up wetland erosion in many areas. The state offers a bounty, paying $6 per tail, but participation in that program has also faded in recent years. The annual rodeo went on hiatus after 2013, but organizers brought it back this year, offering an excuse to gather with Mardi Gras canceled.
Proceeds raised through this weekend’s event will be donated towards coastal restoration efforts, and the nutria collected were originally headed to Audubon Zoo, but were turned away after record heat combined with much greater turnout than organizers had anticipated. Instead, a local crabber took the entire load.