State hires agents to shoot, kill pesky rodents at Capitol Lake

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The state is hiring federal wildlife agents to shoot and kill nearly 40 nutria on Capitol Lake in an effort to deal with a growing population of the pesky rodent.

"If you look around you can see all the things that could be at risk," said Curt Hart of the Department of Enterprise Services.

Nutria, an invasive species, is dark brown with orange teeth and white whiskers. The animal, which is native to South America, was introduced into Washington in the 1930s to help people with fur trade.

"Nutria will displace native animals. They also will displace and create problems with aquatic plants. They can carry disease," said Hart.

State officials have decided the best option to get rid of the problem is to pay the U.S. Department of Agriculture $5,000 to shoot and kill the furry rodent.

"This seemed to be the most sure method for getting the population down," said Hart. "We don't think we're ever going to be able to eradicate the animal because you look at a body of water like (Capitol Lake) - maybe you can get rid of this population, but it doesn't mean another population wouldn't move in."

State officials considered poisoning and trapping the nutria but that can cause risk to other wildlife and even the pets of visitors. Even if state officials did trap the nutria, the animal would still have to be euthanized because it's an invasive species.

"They need to keep the em down somehow," said Gary Kessler during his recent visit to Capitol Lake. "(Nutria) do an awful lot of damage to dikes and levies and they will attack people's dogs."

The animals are nocturnal this time of year but can still pose a threat.

"We've seen them out in the daytime walking before. They're mostly nocturnal but they come out in the daytime. They'll be out foraging in the grass," said Kessler, who walks around Capitol Lake about three times a week.

Wildlife agents are expected to begin their operation at night sometime this week-- armed with a spotlight and a .22-caliber rifle. The rifles will have noise suppressors to muffle the sound of shots being fired.