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The Coypu (Myocastor coypus) in Great Britain

E. M. O. Laurie
Journal of Animal Ecology
Vol. 15, No. 1 (May, 1946), pp. 22-34
DOI: 10.2307/1622
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1622
Page Count: 15
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The Coypu (Myocastor coypus) in Great Britain
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Abstract

1. The coypu (Myocastor coypus), a South American rodent, has been bred in Great Britain for its valuable pelt since about 1929. Most of the fur farms were in the southern and south-eastern counties of England and were given up in 1939 on account of the war. 2. There are records of a number of escapes from these farms and wild colonies of coypus are established at least in parts of east Norfolk, and on the Dorney sewage farm near Slough, Buckinghamshire. 3. The Norfolk War Agricultural Executive Committee is carrying out a trapping campaign with 4 in. gin traps, and has already caught 193 coypus between February 1943 and June 1945. 4. The coypus live along the banks of rivers and streams which they may burrow into, and in marshy land close to open stretches of water. 5. The vegetation in these habitats consists of various aquatic plants, particularly sedges (Carex spp.) and reeds (Phragmites communis), which provide cover as well as food. Stomach examinations of 10 specimens showed an entirely vegetable diet. 6. The weight of 84 coypus caught in Norfolk ranged from 793 g. (1 lb. 12 oz.) to 8164 g. (18 lb.) excluding weights of pregnant females plus embryos. The heaviest coypu was a pregnant female plus embryos which weighed 10432 g. (23 lb.). The heaviest male weighed 8164 g. (18 lb.). 7. There does not appear to be any marked difference in the reproductive rates of coypus living wild in Great Britain and those bred in captivity in Great Britain, or in South America, France or Russia. Breeding continues throughout the year, fecundity in both sexes being reached at a weight of about 1800-2200 g. (4-5 lb.), about 5 months old. In captivity the gestation period lasts for about 120-130 days, the average number of young per litter is 5 and there are 2 litters a year, sometimes 5 in two years. Three pregnant females which were examined by the writer had 5, 8 and 9 embryos respectively. 8. Two specimens of the louse Pintrufquenia coypus were obtained from a coypu caught near Norwich. So far it appears to have only been recorded from its type locality in Chile. This is the first record for Great Britain. 9. Some account is given of the recorded habitat and food of the coypu in South America and its general distribution apart from Great Britain. 10. In some parts of the world the coypu is regarded as a pest. In Great Britain it has been the cause of some damage to crops and a little to river banks. More serious damage is being done to the reed-swamp vegetation which it feeds upon and tramples down.

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