Myocastor coypus


Photo credit: ©GBNNSS, with thanks to the Wildwood Trust
Myocastor coypus  
Common names:
  • Coypu, nutria

  • Inland surface water, Mire, bogs and fen

  • The coypu or nutria is a large, semi-aquatic rodent from South America. It is about 1m in length. It has dark, small ears, and a long cylindrical tail.

Origin and Worldwide Distribution:
  • The coypu is a large rodent from South America. It was first introduced into Europe in the 19th century for fur farming.
  • While fur farming has been abandoned in the meantime, the species has since colonised coastal marshes, swamps and other wetland areas in no less than 19 Member States (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain). It has, however, already been eradicated from the United Kingdom.

Potential or Known Impacts:
  • Considered a major pest across much of the EU, the coypu is estimated to cost over 65 million euros a year in economic damage and management costs. Because of its voracious appetite, it severely disrupts the natural habitats and alters the composition of local plant communities.
  • Additionally, it degrades river banks and irrigation systems through its extensive burrowing activities and has a major impact on agriculture.

How did it/could it get here?
  • It was first introduced for fur farming, then was allowed to colonise wetland areas.

Is it found in Ireland or Northern Ireland?
  • Present in Ireland under eradication. Not present in Northern Ireland.
  • More information can be seen here on NBDC and NBN Atlas NI.

Static Distribution Map as of December 2019 - Courtesy of CEDaR

Methods for Prevention:
  • A ban on sales, a phasing out of any ownership, a rapid eradication of any newly emerging population, and the management of established populations should help to contain the invasion. Since the first verified sighting in Ireland in 2010, Coypu have been seen and reported from seven separate locations (up to May 15th, 2017).  Just one animal was seen for six of the area sightings with two of the animals successfully removed and taken into captivity.
  • However one sighting in September 2016 was of at least 4 Coypu in the Curaheen River, Cork City.  A rapid response to survey and remove the animals in the area was initiated on 03/10/2016 with 10 animals removed by 03/11/2016.
  • This sighting was the first formal Ireland Early Detection and Rapid Response alerts issued under the European Regulation on Invasive Alien Species [No. 1147/2014].
  • Report all sightings.
  • Ireland Coypu 2017 Species Alert
  • On May 7th 2017, a single Coypu was photographed swimming in the River Lee, Cork City about 4 kilometres from the Curaheen sightings. Efforts to ascertain extent of Coypu in Cork City area have been extended by encouraging citizen surveillance and reporting of all suspected sightings.

You can help by reporting any sightings:
Current Legislative Position (Listed on 03 August 2016)
  • This species must not intentionally be brought into the Union; kept; bred; transported to, from or within the United Kingdom, unless for the transportation to facilities in the context of eradication; placed on the market; used or exchanged; permitted to reproduce, grown or cultivated; or released into the environment.
For further queries, you can contact the Non Native Invasive Species Team in the Northern Ireland Environment Agency on 028 9056 9558.

Species Related Files:

Invasive Species Ireland

Invasive Species Ireland