Nutria Rodeo participants set sights on menace swamp rodents

This participant in a past Nutria Rodeo brought in a boatload of nutria rats.

Those dirty rats better run for the hills.

The only problem for the nutria “rats” down around the vicinity of Venice Marina on Feb. 24-25 is that there aren’t any hills. So they’re in trouble.

More than 300 hunters have already signed up to take part in the Swamp Safari Shootout, more commonly called the Nutria Rodeo of Louisiana. The event starts at 8 a.m. on the first day and ends at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The “You dirty rat” movie line was one of the most famous quotes ever attributed to legendary actor James Cagney. And he probably didn’t even know about nutria.

There are cash prizes in all kinds of divisions, but the big money goes to the team that brings in the biggest nutria and the most nutria per boat. There are also prizes for things like the Best Dressed Team and there will even be a Nutria Toss.

“We came back up with the idea because we had a good time going to the Nutria Rodeo 10 years ago,” said Gabe Macormic, 37, of New Orleans. He grew up on the Northshore in farming and real estate and is familiar first-hand with the damage they do.

“We wanted to have a good time with our friends,” he said. “Conservation is our main goal. We try to eradicate as many as possible to save the wetlands for our future generations. We talk to everyone about making sure they follow all the Louisiana rules and regulations for hunting. But we are also confused why the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries limit the amount of nutria and season when they are a nuisance and there is even a bounty offered for them.”

Party atmosphere

There will be food, including boiled crawfish, and drinks all weekend. Live Cajun music will be performed Friday and Saturday nights. That’s why, in addition to the hunt, the organizers are expecting at least 1,000 people at the event and party that accompanies it, that is growing in popularity.

For more information and all the details, check out the group’s Facebook page.

Nutria were first brought to Louisiana in the 1930’s to bolster the local fur trades, and for years trappers kept their numbers under control. But as the fur trade failed in the 1980’s, so did much of the trapping industry and the numbers of the nuisance rodents soon was out of control. What was supposed to be a good thing suddenly turned bad.

The end result has literally helped destroy parts of the Louisiana Delta. Nutria eat the roots of vital wetland plants that hold the marsh together. The plants die and accelerated erosion causes almost immediate damage. There’s no need to remind anyone of how coastal erosion has already affected the state from many causes.

In 2002, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries tried to help with the formation of the Coastwide Nutria Control Program. The program pays licensed trappers in the state $6 per tail and the LDWF has said it has helped reduce the overall population. But the problem persists and so does the damage. When the program first started, it was estimated that nutria damage was destroying up to 100,000 acres of marsh every year.

And that’s what inspired Macormic to bring back the rodeo. And this year’s field will be the largest one yet. Registration for the event has closed, but everyone is invited to the festivities.

About Kinny Haddox 592 Articles
Kinny Haddox has been writing magazine and newspaper articles about the outdoors in Louisiana for 45 years. He publishes a daily website, and is a member of the Louisiana Chapter of the Outdoor Legends Hall of Fame. He and his wife, DiAnne, live in West Monroe.