Two Nutria photo by Steve Hillebrand, USFWS

MD - Decades-Long Partnership Eradicates Destructive Nutria Rodents From Maryland

CAMBRIDGE, Md. – The Chesapeake Bay Nutria Eradication Project (CBNEP) announced at an event at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge that Maryland is now free of the exotic, invasive nutria.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services (WS), and Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have worked more than 20 years to make this difficult task — never accomplished before on this scale — a success.

Nutria were introduced to the Delmarva peninsula in Maryland from South America in the 1940s for the fur market. Since then, they have decimated thousands of acres of marshes with their destructive feeding habits, accelerated by the impacts of sea-level rise.  

Nowhere has this been more evident than Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, which lost more than 5,000 acres of wetlands through a combination of nutria impacts, sea-level rise and land subsidence.

The impacted marshes provide critical habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl, breeding areas for at-risk wildlife such as the saltmarsh sparrow, spawning grounds for commercial fisheries including striped bass and blue crab, and homes for threatened and endangered species such as the black rail.

These wetlands also provide resiliency to coastal communities, protecting communities from increasingly intense storms.

“The Chesapeake Bay Nutria Eradication Project is an excellent example of foresight and collaboration,” said Service Director Martha Williams, who delivered remarks at today’s event. “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.”

In 2004, the total annual economic, environmental and social services losses due to nutria damage were estimated at $5.8 million, with projections to drastically increase if nutria were not addressed.

Nutria eradication was possible through the coordination of federal and state agencies working closely with public and private landowners. One half of the 14,000 nutria removed during the project were from private lands, thanks to over 700 participating landowners, which ultimately protected over 250,000 acres of marshes on the Delmarva Peninsula.

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