The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is urging the public to report any sightings of destructive semi-aquatic rodents known as "nutria," which government officials say have been detected in parts of Delaware.
The animals, which are native to South America and look similar to the muskrat and beaver, can destroy thousands of acres of marshland, reducing them to mudflats and greatly affecting the well-being of other wildlife, MyFoxPhilly.com reports.
"The destruction that nutria have caused in the Chesapeake Watershed is tremendous," Joe Rogerson, Deer and Furbearer Biologist with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Division of Fish & Wildlife, said.
"The Division of Fish and Wildlife is committed to ensuring similar destruction does not occur in Delaware," Rogerson said.
Their discovery on a pond near the town of Marydel, Delaware, in western Kent County, has federal and state wildlife officials concerned that their population has spread. Marydel is far north of the Delmarva Peninsula, where the rodents were known to be living, DelawareOnline.com reports.
The nutria were released into the marshes of Dorchester County, Md., in 1943 for the purpose of fur farming, but managed to escape into the wild, according to the website.
One tactic used to eradicate the rodents reportedly calls for sterilization and the use of tracking devices to locate other nutria that may have escaped detection.