Dead Nutria Rats Washing Up By The Thousand In Wake Of Hurricane Isaac

Dead nutria rats have washed up on beaches of southern Mississippi by the thousands in the wake of Hurricane Isaac, causing headaches for clean-up crews who wade through the piles of dead vermin to remove them.

Somewhere between 16,000 and 18,000 of the semiaquatic, rat-like rodents have turned up in Hancock county, along with some other dead animals, the Sun Herald reported. Crews there were trying to devise the best way to get ride of the thousands of dead nutria rats, which drowned during the hurricane’s storm surge.

The situation got the better of many of the clean-up crew, with a half-dozen of them quitting by Sunday, the Sun Herald reported. The government hired contractor U.S. Environmental Services to handle the situation, taking the dead nutria rats to a landfill in Pecan Grove that’s intended to accommodate household garbage.

The nutria rat clean-up isn’t go well so far, said Hancock County Supervisor David Yarborough.

“They’re separating the bodies from the grass and piling them up,” Yarborough said. “They have equipment today. It’s moving.

“But it’s only getting worse,” he added. “As they’re picking them up, they’re busting open. It’s worse in one sense and better in another.

“They’re getting the job done. They’re equipped, but there’s people who can’t take the sight of something like this,” he said. “That’s the reason I wouldn’t even attempt this with county people. You really should be certified and trained in hazardous waste.”

The county had been through a similiar situation after Hurrican Gustav, he added. It didn’t go well then, either.

“We had people getting sick; wound up buying everybody’s clothes,” he said. “Our people just aren’t trained for this.”

Nutria are large, semi-aquatic rodents that are originally from South America. They live on a diet of wetlands plants and can reproduce quickly, having three litters a year with as many as 13 offspring each time.

“They’re like mosquitoes,” Harrison County Supervisor Kim Savant said of nutria rats. “They continue to reproduce.”

Harrison County has also seen the dead nutria wash up, but not as bad as other places, The Associated Press reported. Still, officials there estimate they removed about 16 tons of dead animals from beaches over the weekend.