Environmentally lethal rodents known as nutria have ravaged the wetlands along the Eastern Shore for decades.
The creatures’ destruction of the Chesapeake Bay and marshland prompted the United States Department of Agriculture to introduce The Chesapeake Bay Nutria Eradication Project in 2002 at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge. Since then, the project has expanded its efforts across Delmarva.
Its goal was to eradicate nutria from the region by 2019, but project officials say they are well ahead of schedule.
“We’re at the point in the project where we don’t actually know of any remaining nutria populations,” says Bill Wilmoth, project leader. “We’ve trapped them out to that point. We’re now just doing detection surveys to make sure that there aren’t any remaining nutria.”
In the past 14 years, Wilmoth and his team have searched more than 250,000 acres of land on the Eastern Shore and more than 14,000 nutria have been eliminated, according to the USDA.
To be sure nutria have been abolished from Delmarva, project officials are revisiting areas the pests have previously been found to ensure they didn’t miss any.
Over the years, Wildlife Services has used a number of tools to eliminate these harmful rodents from the Eastern Shore. Dogs are just another piece of their versatile toolbox.If I know my dogs, part of the headline is wrong. The dogs would be very disappointed to find no more nutria.
“The marsh is a very expansive habitat,” Pepper says. “So what we use the dogs for is to look for nutria droppings, and that’s something we look for. We have a better chance of finding a dropping than the actual animal. When the dogs find it, they bark.”
“The dogs are a very critical piece of the toolbox,” Pepper adds. “We use them to survey the ground and it helps build our confidence that we aren’t detecting (nutria).”
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