Wildlife officials are asking California residents to report any sightings of nutria — an invasive rodent that eats so much aquatic vegetation that it threatens wetlands and marshes.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife said Thursday it is trying to eradicate the rodents from the state because once established, nutria could cause loss of wetlands, damage to agricultural crops and levees, dikes and roadbeds.
It says more than 20 nutria have been found in wetlands, rivers and canals and in Merced, Fresno and Stanislaus counties.
Native to South America, nutria can reach up to 2.5 feet (1 meter) in body length and 20 pounds (9 kilograms) in weight.
A female nutria can give birth to more than 200 offspring within a year of reaching reproductive maturity.