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The coypu

An exogenous species, imported from South America at the beginning of the 19th century.

How to recognise a coypu

It has a massive silhouette: it is a large rodent, generally grey-brown, with a reddish tinge to the underside of the belly and the tips of the ears. In fact, all colours are possible for the coypu: from albino to dark brown.

The coypu has long white whiskers, the tip of its snout is white and the coypu has distinctive orange incisors. The coypu's hind legs are webbed. The tail is cylindrical and scaly with a few stiff hairs.

The female coypu has teats along the sides of her back which allow her to nurse her young while swimming!

Without its tail, the length of the coypu is between 68 and 100cm. The weight of the coypu is between 6 and 7 kiIo but it can be much bigger: over 10kg.

The life of the coypu

The coypu is mainly crepuscular, although it moves slowly on land, it is a remarkable swimmer. The coypu lives in groups and can be aggressive, especially towards small dogs, dachshunds...

Habitat

The coypu likes freshwater and brackish water environments, but also ditches, canals and marshes. The coypu is capable of colonising colinear reservoirs and lagoons, causing significant damage to water treatment plants.

The coypu digs burrows along the banks with several entrances, at least one of which is underwater. When the population is abundant, these burrows cause banks to collapse and accelerate the filling of ditches and channels. The coypu may exceptionally build huts of foliage.

Diet

The coypu is a herbivore: its diet consists primarily of aquatic and riparian plants, both herbaceous and woody. But its adaptability makes it appreciate corn and wheat. When a coypu is located near orchards, it enjoys apples and pears. It consumes 25 to 41% of its weight per day. 

Breeding 

A coypu reaches sexual maturity at about 8 months. The female has one or two litters per year. The gestation period is 130 days. The average number of offspring is 6 to 7 and they are suckled for 7 to 8 weeks.

While young coypu may have weasels, mink, badgers or even foxes as predators, adult coypu have no predators. Coypu can live up to 10 years.

Diseases

The coypu is a carrier of leptospirosis, a study conducted by veterinary schools shows that more than 40% of coypu in France are affected. The coypu should be handled with gloves.