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The nutria (Myocastor coypus) is a brownish-gray rodent that hails from South America. These sturdy semi-aquatic animals share some prominent physical features with rats -- namely their tiny, beady eyes and lengthy front teeth. Because of those similar traits, nutrias are often called "river rats."
Within the rodent world, nutrias are on the sizable end of the spectrum -- usually weighing somewhere between 15 and 22 pounds, according to National Geographic. Their somewhat squat physiques are usually between 17 and 25 inches long. As far as living environment goes, nutrias are generally found close to water sources, usually by streams or rivers, in areas surrounding lakes and in marshes or swamps. They also occasionally live in drainage canals. These rodents eat a lot of plants -- think roots, foliage and stems. Although they're almost entirely vegetarian, they occasionally consume animal sustenance, generally from crustaceans.
Nutrias are susceptible to the threats of various different predators, notably birds of prey such as bald eagles and hawks, cottonmouth snakes, garfish, dogs, turtles and alligators. However, due to their nocturnal lifestyle patterns, it's often difficult for diurnal predators to get to them. Nutrias often hide out in burrows as a means of avoiding predators.
Human beings are some of the biggest predators to nutrias. Nutrias are frequently hunted by people for their smooth, soft undercoats, which are often employed for the production of winter attire. Apart from fur, nutrias are also occasionally hunted for their flesh, too.
Despite nutrias' various predators, they do not have endangered population status as of the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species report. Nutrias are a "least concern" species. Although the population for nutrias is going down, the speed of decline is not considered dramatic enough to justify any heightened concern. Nutrias also live in many parts all over the world, not only in South America but in North America, Asia and Europe. Nutrias that live outside of South America generally are those that were accidentally released from captive fur farming environments.
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