FORT WORTH, Texas – What has a large, flat tail, hind webbed feet and orange teeth? No it’s not a beaver — it’s a giant swamp rat.
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, a swarm of these swamp rats, or otherwise known as nutria, were spotted at Krauss Baker Park in Fort Worth this week. A photo of the swamp rat swarm was circulating social media on Friday.
The reason for the rat invasion at Krauss Baker Park is due to park visitors feeding them, according to TPWD Urban Wildlife Biologist Rachel Richter.
“The reason for the thriving population of nutria in Krauss Baker Park is that people are feeding them at this location. People generally mean well when they offer food to animals, but they don’t realize that they’re doing far more harm than good. Feeding wildlife is a huge problem that has negative impacts on our local ecosystems and often leads to human-wildlife conflict in our communities,” Richter said.
These rodents can also be found throughout the eastern half of Texas, including South Texas and the San Antonio area, and on the Texas coast in marshes, swamps, ponds and lakes, according to TPWD officials.
Although they’re active year-round, it’s uncommon for the rodents to gather in a group this large in Texas, according to Richter.
And, if their size or appearance wasn’t enough to evoke some fear, Richter said they can also be harmful to humans, but maybe not in the way you may think.
“They are harmful to humans because they degrade water quality in water bodies that might be used for recreation or drinking water. They are also vectors for pathogens and parasites that could contaminate a water body and potentially infect people. They also have a negative economic impact through the environmental, agricultural, and structural damage they cause,” Richter said.
Nutria feed on aquatic vegetation and can average eating three pounds a day, Richter said. This can also be harmful, as it can cause erosion and loss of habitat for other creatures as well.
To learn more about Nutria, click here.