We stopped by a local duck pond to take a look at what from the road appeared to be unusually small Canada Geese. The geese were certainly smaller and daintier than the Canada Geese that I am used to seeing around this area. They were also decidedly more skittish, and they took took to the air before I could get close enough to collect any pictures.
Fortunately, our disappointment lasted only briefly, as we were excited to observe this Nutria emerge from a large section of reeds, and begin swimming through the water in our general direction.
The weather was very cold on this day, somewhere near 40F/4.4C, with strong, gusty winds. We were somewhat surprised to see the Nutria out on a day like this, as we understood the Nutria to be a primarily nocturnal animal and sensitive to the cold as well.
During my research for the Nutria article, I found a write-up describing how the primarily nocturnal Nutria will sometimes come out during the day to feed when it has been kept in it den for extended periods of time by inclement weather. Interestingly, the weather had been extremely cold (20F/-7C), with snow and ice during the 2 or 3 days prior to when this observation was made.
Here the Nutria emerges from a large section of reeds and begins swimming through the water in our general direction.
The Nutria swam right past our location, and then followed the shoreline south until he entered another reedy area near the bank about 30 feet from our observation point.
We followed the Nutria as he moved into the reedy area, and I took this picture of him as he moved into the shallow water near the bank of the pond.
The Nutria took a moment to check the quality of the vegetation at this location by rooting under the water with his snout and testing the reeds with his front paws.
Evidently the vegetation here was not up to the Nutria’s standards, and after only a minute or two he re-entered the water and began to swim further down the shore towards an area with more extensive reed growth.
This photograph demonstrates some of the Nutria’s adaptations for life in the water. Note the ears, eyes and nostrils set high on the head to be clear of the water while the Nutria is swimming.
Here the Nutria is entering an area with more extensive reed growth.
The Nutria moved through the reeds and seemed to be looking for something specific. We followed the Nutria as he swam along the shore. He was never further than 15 feet from us, and despite the proximity, the Nutria seemed generally unconcerned about our presence.
The Nutria stopped in front of these reeds, and periodically dunked his head under the water, evidently in an effort to examine the plant’s roots.
Here you see the Nutria with his head completely submerged. After a moment or two he came back to the surface, and then repeated the maneuver several more times over the next 2 or 3 minutes.
From his previous location, the Nutria moved into and area of more dense reed growth, and again began to feed on the plant’s roots.
If you look carefully, you can see the Nutrias large, orange teeth in this picture. Also of note is the Nutria’s hand-like front paws holding the reed stems as the Nutria feeds. This picture was taken from a distance of approximately 5 feet. Again, I was amazed at the animals general lack of concern about our proximity. If I was so inclined, I believe I could have reached out and given this little fellow a scratch behind the ears. All indications were that the Nutria was in good health. This pond is frequented by a large number of people who come to feed the ducks, and I suppose this Nutria may have become accustomed to the presence of people as a consequence.
Here the Nutria is giving his head a rapid, dog-like shaking. The large, orange teeth are also very noticeable in this photograph.
In this picture you can see the Nutria firmly grasping a reed stem in his forepaws as he leisurely chews on his last bite of the plant.
In this photograph I have pulled back a bit in order to give a better idea of what the area where the observation was made is like. Note the abundance of reeds.
In this picture the Nutria’s hand-like front paws are clearly visible.
Hiding in plain view. In this picture I have moved back even further in order to demonstrate the Nutria’s ability to blend in with its surroundings. This photograph was taken at a distance of roughly 15ft/3m. Can you see the Nutria roughly in the center of this picture? The Nutria’s hunched hindquarters are visible about an inch to the right of the large white item on the left side of the photograph.
Can you see him now? The Nutria is probing deeply into the thick reed in order to get at the tasty roots just under the water’s surface.
In this photograph the Nutria’s large, round, rat-like tail is clearly visible.
Here the Nutria has moved back into the open water near the large white item seen in the previous photographs.
That this point the Nutria headed back out to the open water just of shore. He swam away from the back for roughly 12 feet, and the veered back to the north, heading toward the thick reed bed from which he first emerged.
In this picture the Nutria is seen swimming through the open water with quite some gusto. Notice the water splashed up by the Nutria’s paddling.
If you look carefully at this picture you can see the tip of the Nutria’s long round tail, giving you a better impression of the animal’s overall length.
Here the Nutria is returning to the heavy reed cover from which he first appeared.
One last look before the Nutria disappeared into the thick bed of reeds. From start to finish this series of observations lasted approximately 30 minutes.