We have all seen a rodent at least once in our lives, whether it was a mouse hiding in your garage or a rat running along subway tunnels or the sewer. So, we’re pretty familiar with their general size and appearance. While some rats you see in cities like Manhattan may look huge, they don’t even come close to the nutria, large swamp rats with bright orange teeth, found in Southern Louisiana. These rodents are not like your normal mouse or rat you might see in a pet store or on the streets. A new documentary titled Rodent of Unusual Size introduces these giant swamp rats and explores the history of them being introduced to the United States and the current dilemma people in Louisiana are now facing due to the massive nutria population.

Rodents of Unusual Size first explains what nutria are and why people decided to bring them to the U.S. in the first place. Nutria are originally from Argentina. Nutria are far larger than your ordinary rodent, most being larger than a small dog. They also sport giant orange teeth that can do quite a bit of damage to any unfortunate creature that steps in their path. Nutria were first brought over to Louisiana in 20th century by trappers that thought they would be a good addition to the Louisiana fur industry. Their pelts were made into everything from luxury jackets to hats, and were even worn by the likes of Sophia Loren. Unfortunately, when animal rights became popular and fur went out of fashion these animals were allowed to flourish in their new habitat.

The problem with having giant rats just roaming free without any natural predator to keep their population in check, is that you then have so many giant rats invading your home that they quickly become a problem for the environment they are inhabiting. Nutria devastate the environment because they will eat anything that looks green, uprooting plants and speeding up coastal erosion. The number of nutria in Southern Louisiana grew to a point where the government had to deal with them somehow or risk serious damage to the land. So, how did they decide to handle this dilemma? The government made nutria free game for anyone that wants to hunt some down, and even added a monetary incentive. Pretty much everyone is involved now, including the young, old, and everything in between. It is apparently a pretty good way to make money to pay for college too. It’s a nutria free for all!

Have you ever seen one of these giant rodents? What was your first impression?