Print Posted By Lost in France on 25 Feb 2006 in Wildlife - Wildlife and nature in France

The Coypu

CoypuThe Coypu Myocastor coypus is a large semi aquatic rodent that is originally native to South America but was introduced to Europe in the last century as a result of the fur trade. Some escaped from fur farms and others were released into the wild When the fur trade declined. It is widely distributed across France and is present in many lakes and waterways feeding on aquatic vegetation, roots, stems, water lilies and lake side plants.

The Coypu is sometimes also called the Nutria - the Spanish word for otter and also the name of its rich grey coloured velvety under fur. The outer fur or guard hairs are a reddish dark brown or yellowish colour.

The Coypu can be up to a metre long including its tail (about 40 cm) and weighs up to 7 kg. its hind feet are webbed and its incisor teeth are coloured orange. The coypu has small eyes which are positioned high on its head for swimming and blunt face.

A Coypu feedingUnfortunately for the Coypu it is responsible for much damage to rivers banks, vegetation and consequently native species, and in most countries including France it is considered a pest, with many local authorities taking steps to eradicate it.

Although well adapted to the more temporal climates of Northern Europe numbers tend to be reduced during very cold winters and the Coypu is susceptible to frost bite particularly to its tail which can lead to infection and a slow painful death.

Breeding takes place throughout the year but the gestation period is about 4 and a half months. The female Coypus' nipples are positioned high up on her sides almost on her back this is so that the young Coypus can climb on their mothers back and easily feed whilst she is in the water.

In France the Coypu has few natural enemies apart from man although the young may occasionally fall prey to foxes or dogs

Lifespan - up to 6 years.

French for Coypu - Ragondin

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