Rodent damage on the rise in South America

Rodent damage on the rise in South America

Dealing with pests of all sizes, Brazilian farmers have few options

If you see part of a calf carcass hanging in a tree on your Brazilian farm, you can be pretty sure a jaguar put it there for safekeeping.

Related: Farm varmints take a ride to the grain elevator

So it's no surprise that when I once sent some of my Brazilian farmer friends a photo of a bear that supposedly had been run over by a combine in a Michigan cornfield, I got back a barrage of shots of freakishly huge snakes held up for the camera by five men; monitors (a cousin of the alligator) sunning themselves next to soybean fields; and other critters frequently spotted in fields.

A capybara is a huge rodent that lives in most waterways across the country. It can grow to 4 and a half feet long and is considered the largest rodent in the world

Big pests
Not all of Brazil's wild animals would make a nice meal, though. Some are just after a farmer's corn and beans. Wild hogs are a frequent problem, mowing down broad patches of corn and making fast work of any dogs you might send in to scare them off.

But farmers sometimes have to deal with another pest: capybaras. A capybara is a huge rodent that lives in most waterways across the country. It can grow to 4 and a half feet long and is considered the largest rodent in the world. A group of capybaras working the fields cost at least one producer between 22-30 acres of beans, and 37-40 acres of corn last season, according to a local report.

There are no numbers on how much of Brazil's crop might be lost to capybaras—or any other animal invader—but there's a sense such damage is on the increase. If so, it could be expansion of farmland into areas closer to marshes, or, more likely, an increasing switch from pasture, to which capybaras do little harm, to cropland.

What not to do
But if you're a Brazilian farmer and you take it upon yourself to get rid of a group of capybaras (they live in groups, so there is no such thing as one capybara on your farm) you could spend six to 12 months in jail after you pay your fine of $166 per animal.

Besides, unlike the wild hogs, they're not all that tasty as you flip through your email inbox full of pictures of man-eating anacondas.

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