published Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

Thousands of dead nutrias on beaches

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. — Thousands of dead nutrias have washed ashore on Hancock County beaches during Isaac.

Hancock County officials say they are concerned that the nutria — large semiaquatic rodents — could create a health and environmental hazard.

“They’re in the tide and just floating in and they’re probably going to continue coming in over the next several days. There’s no telling how many thousands we’re going to have,” Waveland Mayor David Garcia tells WLOX-TV.

Department of Environmental Quality officials say so far they’ve counted more than 5,000 dead nutrias on Hancock County beaches, but they say that number could top 10,000 before they all finish washing ashore.

Hancock County faced a similar nutria problem after Hurricane Gustav.

“If you’re out here, it’s a terrible smell,” Garcia said. “As this heat continues, they’re just going to blow up and pop, making it even more of a health hazard.”

County officials are hoping the state will hire crews and pay for removal and disposal. If that doesn’t happen, officials will have to contract out the job themselves.

“Either way, we’ve got a time frame that we need to get out there and get it taken care of,” said Hancock County Road Manager Bill Johnson. “Regular debris can sit out there for a little while until we take care of it. Because it’s such a large quantity of carcasses that need to be cleaned up immediately, we’ve got a short window here. They just get to the point where they are unbearable.”

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