Theodore G. Manno traces the history of nutria from their natural range in South America to their status as an invasive species known for destroying the environmentally and economically important wetlands along the Gulf Coast. In this definitive book on "swamp rats", Manno vividly recounts western expansion and the explosion of the American fur industry. Then he details an apocalyptic turn – to replace an overhunted beaver population in North America, humans introduced nutria.
With an eclectic repertoire of true stories that read like fiction and are played out by larger-than-life characters, Manno conveys the legend of empire-seeking fur trappers, the bizarre miscommunications that led to nutria releases, and the sadness that comes with killing millions of nutria whose ancestors were never meant to leave their South American habitat. He tells of disastrous interactions among hungry nutria, storm surges from Hurricane Katrina, and major oil spills. His extensively researched and epic narrative, accompanied by more than thirty photographs and entertaining interviews with biologists, historians, fashion designers, and chefs, weaves a poignant tale of empire, conquest, fortune, even of Tabasco Sauce.
Manno provides a full overview of what is currently known about nutria – a species now aggressively hunted with a bounty program because of their reputation for wetland destruction.
Theodore G. Manno, Tucson, Arizona, is author of The Utah Prairie Dog: Life among the Red Rocks and Mating Behavior of Columbian Ground Squirrels. He has published dozens of magazine articles, peer-reviewed scientific reports, and photos of wildlife. A frequent speaker at local events and president of the Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science, Manno's research has been featured in media outlets such as Discovery News, New Scientist, Deseret News, Tucson Morning Blend, KMVT Community Media, FCC Free Radio, and public radio.
"If you haven't heard of the nutria, you soon will, for this little critter – cuddly to some, revoltingly rat-like to others – is moving in. Swamp Rat is a deft and delightful guide to the natural history of the South's strangest invasive species."
– Gordon Grice, author of The Red Hourglass: Lives of the Predators and The Book of Deadly Animals