Coypu is a large semi-aquatic rodent which is native to South America.
It was introduced to the British Isles in 1929 when fur farms were set
up in Sussex, Hampshire, Devon and Norfolk. The farms were sited mainly
in lowland areas which are rich in rivers and streams. During the 1930's
coypus escaped from captivity and despite repeated attempts to control
them, they have adapted well to their new British habitat, breeding
extremely successfully in the countryside of East Anglia. Today the
Coypu, along with the Grey Squirrel, are a constant reminder of the
folly of introducing foreign species into a new country without fully
considering the consequences.
the Coypu and the Brown Rat are rather similar in appearance, hardly
surprising as they are both rodents. But the blunt square shape of the
coypu's muzzle and it's webbed feet clearly distinguish it, not to mention
it's size. In fact it is one of the largest rodents in the world exceeded
only by the South American Capybara (more about that later). The picture
below highlights some of the differences:
have a look at some biology:
Coypu is about 1 metre (39 inches) in length from the end of it's
muzzle to the tip of it's round scaly tail. The tail alone accounts
for about one third of it's length. It has short rounded ears, and
small eyes that are set high on the head (like those of a beaver)
so that it can see clearly whilst swimming.
males weigh about 7kg (15.5lbs) though some have known to reach 9kgs
with the female about 1kg lighter.
coypu's fur is specially adapted to keep it warm and dry in winter.
Long, coarse guard hairs conceal and protect the soft velvety under
fur. This under fur, known as nutria (Spanish for otter) in the fur
trade, is the reason why the coypu was bred in this country. The general
colour of the coypu's guard hairs is dark reddish or yellowish brown,
masking the slate grey nutria. The tip of its muzzle and chin have
white hairs and whiskers.
is continuous throughout the year.
lasts for four and a half months.
Number of litters/Year:
out the sums...only two.
No of young/litter: This
is usually 2 - 9 per litter.
animal eats plants, including; grasses, sedges, reeds, water parsnip,
reed -mace and even water lilies.
young are taken by foxes, stoats, dogs etc.
sign that coypus are about is their burrows. These are often made in
ditches or soak-dykes that lie behind many of the raised banks in the
Norfolk Broads, and sometimes extend for 5 metres or more. The burrow
entrance is usually at river level and there may be more than one exit,
the first leading onto the land and others leading back into the water.
Coypus usually emerge from their burrows and become active just before
sunset, returning underground again just before sunrise. In Britain
they do feed during the day which is not the case in S. America. Within
their home range the establish continuous runways through the vegetation
on which they feed, eventually circling back to the water again - still
under cover of the vegetation. On land they move slowly, with a crouching
gait. But if disturbed they will bound away rapidly.
picture above shows mum and baby for, like rabbits, coypu are prolific
breeders. Their gestation period however is long for a rodent. From
above it lasts for four and a half months, so just two litters a year
are produced. Each litter consists of from two to nine young which are
born fully furred and with their eyes open, a distinct advantage. They
can move about within a few hours of birth. Longer gestation times in
the animal kingdom usually mean that the young are more prepared to
face the world when they are born. This is not the case with a human
because our systems are more complicated and also human babies need
the time with their parents to learn as they grow and to program the
The mother coypus nipples are situated high on the sides of her body
so the young can ride on her back and suckle while she is in the water.
On land they feed on either side of their mother as she lies on her
stomach. The young are weaned after seven or eight weeks, but mature
at different times, depending on sex. The females are sexually mature
when three to five months and the males when five to seven months old.
The adults have only man to fear, or sometimes dogs, the young can fall
prey to foxes, weasels, stoats, otters, brown rats, dogs, owls, herons
and hawks. Similarly, although a cold winter may take a heavy toll of
young coypus - they die of starvation and exposure - nearly all of the
adults survive. The population is reduced or contained because the females
abort their litters in a severe winter; after losing a litter in this
way a female will not bear young again until the following June or July.
have since been informed by:
Wildlife Management Adviser
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
Rural Development Service (RDS)
MAFF as it was then (which has now been superseded by DEFRA) were successful
in eradicating East Anglia of Coypu in December 1989. There have been
no confirmed reports of Coypu in the Wild since that time".
about that folks...but you never know there maybe one skulking around
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