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Canadian beavers in Argentina, and Argentinian nutria in Louisana
May 9, 2014 9:45 AM   Subscribe

In 1945, a small Canadian airline was hired to fly 50 beavers to Argentina in an attempt to create a local fur industry. Almost 70 years later, there is no fur trade, but instead a series of failed attempts to remove 1-to-200,000 pests that have now damaged almost 16 million hectares, 50 percent of Tierra del Fuego's riparian forests. It seems no one warned the Argentinians about a previous attempt to start a fur trade in Louisiana, when Argentinian nutria were introduced to the US south on a fur ranch in 1930, but some escaped and the population exploded to around 20 million nutria in the 1950s, though the numbers have been reduced since then.

Argentina's navy thought the beavers could create a fur industry in the region, but no hunting culture formed, and the beavers flourished without predators. One possible reason for a lack of hunting and trapping is because the beavers adapted to the damper and warmer climate by not developing the thick, seasonal coat that is valued by the fur industry, though Tierra del Fuego does get cold and snowy in the winter. And the market for beaver meat didn't pick up, either.

For more on beavers in Tierra del Fuego, see Eradication of beaver (Castor canadensis), an ecosystem engineer and threat to southern Patagonia, a 4 page PDF publication from the Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG). (ISSG, previously)

Nutria (also known as Coypu), on the other hand, have complex and varied treatments in the United States, as a economically important furbearers and invasive pests, plus tasty treats for people and alligators (PDF).
posted by filthy light thief (31 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
If you're going to experiment with animal invasives, best to do it in a region where the locals will try anything in a gumbo..
posted by ocschwar at 9:48 AM on May 9 [7 favorites]


Meanwhile, in Miramichi.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:52 AM on May 9 [2 favorites]


See also New Zealand, Possums.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:54 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]


even if it caused an ecological disaster I would be pretty stoked to have invasive capybaras in the US. They get along so well with other animals!
posted by serif at 10:01 AM on May 9 [3 favorites]


It's ironic how we are struggling to reintroduce beaver here, while they are struggling to eradicate it there. You'd think we could just do a swap. (The jokes would be better if it was Brazil instead of Argentina, though.)
posted by Dip Flash at 10:01 AM on May 9 [3 favorites]


There is some interesting history around nutria (coypu) and the McIlhenny (Tabasco sauce) family. {I haven't read all the links, sorry if this is covered}
posted by fieldtrip at 10:10 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]


[Insert appropriate Simpsons reference here]
posted by tommasz at 10:10 AM on May 9


I swear I saw a nutria climb out of a trashcan when I was riding my bike on the Wildwood, Nj boardwalk a few years ago around 4am. It was like a racoon sized rat and my friend and I slammed on the brakes so hard we flew off the bikes and went trying to chase the creature, but it was too fast winding into sheds/ dumpsters, trash areas and we lost it. We were trippin pretty hard, but if that nutria wasn't real, then life iteself is an illusion.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:36 AM on May 9 [3 favorites]


Wait until you hear about what Canadians introduced into the Florida ecosystem... Quebecois retirees.
posted by GuyZero at 10:42 AM on May 9 [5 favorites]


[Insert appropriate Simpsons reference here]

Come on, you can do better than that.
posted by entropone at 10:47 AM on May 9


Surprisingly, my search of Wikiquote only came up with one reference to beavers, and it's not really that funny (in this thread [yet]). Luckily SNPP has a whole page dedicated to beaver references, and a site search finds more potential jokes. Then there are the Bolivian tree lizards and the episode Bart vs. Australia, with the invasive bullfrog, which was a reference to the actually invasive cane toad.

[Insert appropriate Simpsons quote about beating the joke to death.]
posted by filthy light thief at 11:05 AM on May 9


Argentine beaver cheese?
posted by islander at 11:07 AM on May 9


Quebecois retirees

well they do help raise local albedo so they're not all bad
posted by indubitable at 11:15 AM on May 9 [2 favorites]


Sure, they call them nutria, but did you ever try eating one?
posted by Songdog at 11:16 AM on May 9


filthy light thief: "[Insert appropriate Simpsons quote about beating the joke to death.]"

No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the jokes simply freeze to death.
posted by RobotHero at 11:27 AM on May 9 [4 favorites]


Sure, they call them nutria, but did you ever try eating one?

No, do you have some? As long as there's more meat than Guinea Pig, I'd be happy. (I think Guinea Pigs are on Peruvian menus as a way to mock tourists who are looking for interesting local foods, because the meat:work ratio is pretty high.)
posted by filthy light thief at 11:27 AM on May 9


Also I somehow had never realized nutria weren't native to Louisiana.

Locally, (Manitoba) I've known farmers to view beavers as nuisance animals because they can mess up the water, and I know someone who helped maintain a wooded path near a river with little mesh fences to keep the local beavers from taking trees. So yeah, if beavers are invasive in Argentina, I can see how that would be problematic.
posted by RobotHero at 11:48 AM on May 9


WELCOME TO CANADA
posted by workerant at 11:52 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]


I also like the detail from the pilot's letter that McDiarmid yelled at him for giving away our precious beavers.
posted by RobotHero at 11:58 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]


Our history of failure in natural environment engineering scares the bejeezus out of me when people start talking engineered solutions to climate change.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:14 PM on May 9 [2 favorites]


Sure, they call them nutria, but did you ever try eating one?

Yup. Ocschwar's quip about gumbo wasn't a joke.
posted by kjs3 at 12:19 PM on May 9


This Tierry del Fuego problem could be easily solved by sending a second plane full of Coureurs de Bois.
posted by beau jackson at 12:24 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


Anyone interested in nutria will probably enjoy the short documentary American Nutria, which oddly enough sports a soundtrack by The Postal Service and narration by K Records' Calvin Johnson.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 12:40 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


I remain bound and determined to start a local firefly industry west of the Rockies.
posted by mwhybark at 12:54 PM on May 9 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately, you'll need to import some more moisture, too.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:32 PM on May 9


> In 1945, a small Canadian airline was hired to fly 50 beavers to Argentina in an attempt to create a local fur industry

I didn't think the DHC-2 Beaver had that kind of range.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:47 PM on May 9 [2 favorites]


"...best to do it in a region where the locals will try anything in a gumbo.."

I lived for a time south of NOLA, where it is swampier. I had some friends who were older [than me at fifty] and one night about ten of us were sitting around after dinner and the question was asked, "How do you cook your Nutria?".

The consensus was that you cook Nutria the same as you do Raccoon.
posted by vapidave at 6:11 PM on May 9 [2 favorites]


The consensus was that you cook Nutria the same as you do Raccoon.

This is sound advice. Nutria's definitely something you could keep going off of, but not something you're likely to see on a menu any time soon. Bit stringy, though. At least, when wild. Really easy to clean (Imagine cleaning a fish, but with a fur coat). Gumbo's a good recommendation, and not just for the jokes. Chopping the meat up and turning it into stew's a much better thing to do with it than steaks.

Nutria: Decent eating in the Pacific Northwest (rather than just the South).
posted by CrystalDave at 7:37 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


I heard that the beavers are also blind, thanks to cataracts caused by ozone hole down there.
posted by mantecol at 8:43 PM on May 9


I went to the New Orleans Zephyrs (our AAA baseball team) game on Thursday (Thirsty Thusrday, for which they bring out special tiny cups so they can still claim to sell dollar beers). Our team's mascots are Boudreaux and Clotille, a husband and wife pair of nutria. One of my friends was immediately put off not by how absurd it was to have six-foot-tall nutria costumes with enormous orange teeth, but by how absurd it was to have two heterosexual nutria frolicking around with no apparent offspring.
posted by Corinth at 12:07 AM on May 10 [1 favorite]


Hey there! Was wondering if you would weigh in.

I seem to remember we also tried smoking them and it was mediocre, at best.
posted by ThrowbackDave at 5:17 PM on May 31


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