Politics & Government

Wildlife agents kill just one nutria rodent in first week of Capitol Lake hunting

Federal wildlife agents called in to shoot nutria around Capitol Lake killed just one of the nuisance animals after the first week of after-dark hunting, state officials said Friday.

The Department of Enterprise Services, which manages the state-owned park around the downtown lake, called in U.S. Department of Agriculture agents to help limit the impact of nutria that have taken hold in embankments around the lake. Several dozen of the beaver-sized swimming rodents that originated in South America are believed to have taken up residence, and the critters are known for burrowing, even under roadbeds, and damaging structures and vegetation.

“They saw 12 animals and shot one,” Enterprise Services spokesman Jim Erskine said. “They’ll continue to go out until they don’t spot animals any more or we tell them discontinue. I don’t know any reason we would tell them to stop, unless there was some other issue that came up.”

State officials had little detail on the timing or frequency of the future hunts, but Erskine said the presence of people even after 11 p.m. and in the early hours of the day led agents to look for nutria closer to Deschutes Falls. About three dozen of the animals, which have orange teeth and white whiskers, are thought to be living around the lake.

Shooting the animals with .22-caliber rifles was considered the least bad of four options that included poisoning and trapping because those carried risks of harming other animals or pets. The rifles were muffled to limit noise impacts.