LOUISIANA — A 20-pound rodent eating away the coasts of Louisiana's wetlands is the focus of an upcoming documentary.
Nutria, a large, orange-toothed rodent native to Argentina, is eating away at wetlands plants, causing coastal erosion equal to thousands of acres a year. In 1998 alone, nutria's eating habits damaged 23,960 acres of coastal land — buffer zones for hurricanes. In 2002, Louisiana initiated a bounty program offering $5 per nutria tail to trappers. Since then, the damage has been reduced to 1,129 acres in 2012.
Christ Metzier, Jeff Springer, and Quinn Costello are creating a documentary appropriately named "Rodents of Unusual Size" about the invasive species brought to America during the 1930s for fur farming.
The three raised a total of $30,629 on their Kickstarter campaign, which included items like a nutria fur-lined messenger bag, USDA-certified nutria sausage, and nutria tooth necklace.
In Louisiana swamps, such items and foods are common, the filmmakers say. With the state's bounty, people are encouraged to put the meat, pelts and other parts of the rodent to use. Recipes for nutria gumbo and jerky abound among swamp-dwellers and designers across the country are touting nutria pelts as a sustainable way to harvest fur (cue George Costanza now).
"We have to find a way to control these animals if we don't want to lose Louisiana to the sea. If people begin to recognize nutria as an eco-friendly resource and find uses for their meat and fur, it would help protect the environment by finding productive uses for this invasive species," their Kickstarter page reads.
The film is not just about the rodent and its environmental impact, but about the "disappearing land and culture on the outer edge of the world" of those who live in the swamps.