January 8, 2024 – The province has tightened its grip on the fight against invasive species, restricting 10 new non-native species under the Invasive Species Act as of January 1, 2024. Notably, the nutria, a river rat with orange teeth, takes center stage in the province’s battle against these intruders.

“Invasive species damage our ecosystems, impact outdoor activities, and harm our economy. We are taking action to protect Ontario’s economy and ecosystems,” declared Graydon Smith, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.

New Prohibitions and Restrictions

The list of newly prohibited species includes the Ide fish, Eastern and Western Mosquito Fishes, Red Shiner fish, Oxygen Weed aquatic plant, and the notorious nutria. This furry troublemaker, often mistaken for beavers or muskrats, poses significant threats to agriculture, wetlands, and human health. It is only the second mammal to make it onto the Ontario invasive species list, after the wild pig.

Tree-of-heaven (left) and Eurasian water-milfoil (right)

The restricted category now includes Eurasian Water-milfoil, Floating Primrose-willow, Flowering-rush aquatic plant, Tree-of-heaven terrestrial plant, and Genus Azolla (Water Ferns). These restrictions aim to curb the spread of these invasive species, protecting native flora and fauna.

See the full list of designated invasive species in Ontario here.

Nutria: A Wily Invader

The nutria, native to South America, arrived in North America in the late 19th century for fur farming. Though sightings in Ontario are rare, the province is preparing for potential invasions, mainly from the southeastern U.S.

Often confused with beavers or muskrats, nutria have bright orange teeth and burrow into wetlands, causing havoc. Colin Cassin from the Invasive Species Centre warns of their threat to wetland habitats, stating, “They pop holes into wetlands, impacting stability crucial for structures like bridges and dams.”

Nutria reproduce rapidly, outcompeting native species, and pose economic threats by damaging crops and infrastructure. They also carry harmful pathogens and parasites, adding to the urgency of preventing their establishment.

What You Need to Know

Ontarians are urged to report invasive species sightings promptly. The toll-free Invading Species Hotline (1-800-563-7711) and online platforms like EDD Maps and the Invasive Species in Ontario project provide convenient channels to report sightings.

The Ontario government, recognizing the severity of the threat, invested over $5 million in 2023-24 for research, monitoring, and management of invasive species. The Invasive Species Act, 2015 empowers authorities to prohibit and restrict invasive species and carriers.

Ontario’s diverse ecosystems face a constant challenge from invasive species, and the province remains committed to proactive measures to protect its natural heritage. The addition of nutria to the invasive species list underscores the gravity of the situation, emphasizing the need for collective vigilance and action.