These 20 pound creatures with orange teeth and webbed feet, also known as “nutria” or “coypu,” were originally imported to Louisiana long ago for their fur but have since become a kind of ecological disaster. Many (most?) residents of Delacroix Island, for instance, have all but abandoned areas previously called home thanks to nutria and hurricanes–which are more connected than you’d think, as you’ll learn here–but even those who remain seem to know days are numbered on lands being eaten away and reclaimed by nature. 

Thomas Gonzalez, a lifelong resident of Delacroix, kills any nutria found for the $5 government bounty on their tails and he’s not alone in his method of getting by. Decades of millions upon millions of nutria (an estimated 25 million existed ~late ‘70s) engorging themselves on everything green in their path have left residents and administrations of not just Delacroix with what they feel little choice to not only execute the animals on sight but actively hunt their population down to sustainable. Follow the history of how this mess came to be, where we are now, how those affected choose to get by, and what the future may hold for nutria and people alike.

Though Rodents of Unusual Size as a title obviously comes from a favorite film of several childhoods, The Princess Bride, don’t necessarily expect lots of “fun” as you’re brought up to speed on the rather dire swamp rat situation and hurricane-ravaged backstories. It’s no pity party or misery fest, though, as many accept the boat they’re in without wallowing and adopt a simple “shit happens, move on” mindset. Thomas Gonzalez, for example, tours some remains of his pre-hurricane Katrina life (including a freezer *still* stuck where a freezer doesn’t belong) while remaining steadfast in not leaving the land his ancestors called home–something not everyone in his family agrees on. 

A couple amusing and well-narrated animation sequences help bring a bit of levity to things while also being informatively succinct, which I appreciate, plus music from the Lost Bayou Ramblers adds a Cajun flair to whatever’s happening. I’m sure stuff like nutria skinning contests, a pet swamp rat, fur beauty queens, a preacher floating along in a riverboat to bless hunters, and a huntin’ dog named George W. Bush don’t exactly need *help* in that area but it provides a welcome energy when present. Also, Kermit Ruffins adds some jazz music to the mix and some tips on how to both cook and convince folks to eat swamp rat, if you’re interested (spoiler alert–you lie to them).

I will say that, as an animal lover and vegetarian, the abundance of nutria shootings, skinnings, dismemberments, and decapitations casually featured in Rodents of Unusual Size is a bit much but since it’s a documentary concerning the steps taken to greatly impact the nutria population then what can you really expect? Based on what’s presented this appears to be another case from the apparently endless files of selfish & foolish things people with no concern or consideration do that wreaks long-term havoc on nature other people eventually have to somehow undo or at least lessen–also via havoc on nature. Humans are the worst! 

Anyway, if you’re a fan of well-made documentaries and anything I’ve described sounds interesting then have at it.

 

8 out of 10 Swamp Rat Hats

 

Rodents of Unusual Size – Available now
RATING: UR
Runtime: 1 Hr. 11 Mins.
Directed By:
Jeff Springer, Chris Metzler, & Quinn Costello
Written By:
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