Even after a week of being fair game, the nutria living around Capitol Lake in Washington state appear to be ahead--wildlife agents have shot just one of the nuisance rodents in the first week, the Associated Press reported.
The agents, who have been told to shoot nutria on sight, saw 12 of the beaver-sized creatures and managed to kill one, the AP reported via The Olympian.
Originally from South America, the large swimming rodents wreak havoc when they burrow underground, including beneath roads, and damage buildings and local vegetation. Around three dozen of the animals are believed to be living near the Olympia, Wash., lake in the state-owned park that surrounds it.
"They saw 12 animals and shot one," said Enterprise Services spokesman Jim Erskine, as quoted by The Olympian. "They'll continue to go out until they don't spot animals any more or we tell them to discontinue. I don't know any reason we would tell them to stop, unless there was some other issue that came up."
The rodents are characterized by orange teeth and white whiskers. Officials have considered poisoning and trapping the animals, but those methods put other wildlife and pets at risk. The wildlife agents have been using .22-caliber rifles to shoot nutria, muffling the guns to minimize noise in the park.
The state has given $5,000 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to kill as many nutria as can be shot by a two-person wildlife crew, KPLCTV reported.
"They can displace native animal and plant species. They can carry diseases," Curt Hart of Washington's Department of Enterprise Services told the local NBC outlet.