Experienced and google saavy beaver fans will have seen this picture everywhere on the internet(s). In fact if you do a “search” for beaver images its the number one photo that comes up. (we’re on page three of google images, but moving in the right direction.)
The problem? It’s not a beaver.
For the first time today I really stared at this picture and remembered our beavers and their lovely canine noses. Even photographed upside down or dead our beavers don’t show that much nostril. Was this a Castor Fiber? (European beaver, nope they have dog noses too.) Capybara? (Nope they don’t have webbed feet) Photoshopped anomaly? No.
Its a Nutria.
Owen Brown of Beavers Wetlands & Wildlife set us straight. Nutrias were South American natives and introduced into the United states. Like the Star Thistle we thought was a great idea for growing cheap honey, or the Eucalyptus we bought from the Spanish for growing fast cheap lumber for ships, they didn’t work out so well. The animals turned out to be fairly distructive, and to breed like rabbits. Now there are nutria problems in all of these American states. Oregon fish & Wildlife goes so far as to call them a “Negative Keystone Species”.
The creation story says the Nutria (or Coypu) were introduced by the Mcillhenny Family of Tobasco Sauce fame, who wanted to start a fur trade on Avery Island. A few mistakes later the alligators are a lot happier and we are still dealing with their damage all over the United States and Europe.
Why is this a beaver myth? Because getting beaver confused with Nutria is like mixing up Goofus and Gallant and it happens all the time. People google the word beaver and find a picture of a Nutria, or the details of their constant breeding, or the fact that they harm the environment. I’ve encountered countless forums where people talk about beavers “not deserving to be protected” because they aren’t “native” and only hurt the environment. This is a case of dangerous mistaken identity. Sadly I realize even I have been fooled and a nutria picture is shamefully featured in the “muskrat” images from my second video.
The confusion doesn’t end there. How about this Peruvian Wikipedia page where every single picture of a nutria is actually a picture of an otter? (Turns out “nutria” is the spanish word for “otter”. That’s won’t cause any confusion right?) Or this picture of a man watching a “nutria” that is actually a Capybara? And the youtube abomination of “beavers holding hands” that is actually otters?
Martinez-Beaver fans all I implore you to always look carefully at the photo offered on the internet. Keep your critical thinking caps on when ever you see a beaver photo, and to paraphrase Jerry Macguire;
“Show me the tail!”