Willie Bouchard of Eagle Lake, Me., is 70 years old, and for most of those years Willie has been a trapper. Last week he found something new in one of his traps on the Nadeau Thoroughfare. It was a ratlike animal midway between a muskrat and a beaver in size. It had long whiskers, coarse outer fur and four great big orange teeth. Willie gave the animal to Game Warden Maynard Pelletier for identification; Pelletier himself had to call in help, and finally the awful truth was out. The big rat was a coypu, or nutria, or swamp beaver, or troublemaker.
Nutrias are hardy, beagle-size animals with only one apparent aim—to take over the world. They used to call Argentina home, but then E. A. McIlhenny, the maker of Tabasco sauce, imported a few pairs to Avery Island, La. He planned to raise nutria for fur.
Unfortunately, McIlhenny's "escape-proof" fences were blown down in the hurricane of 1940, and the nutria took it on the lam. In Louisiana they found almost no natural enemies (a hungry alligator will eat a nutria, but there are very few hungry alligators left in Louisiana) and pleasant conditions for breeding. One pair of nutrias can produce 15 offspring a year, and these in turn produce more. In a mere 20 years, they shoved mink and muskrat almost completely out of the bayou country; nutrias have migrated to Texas and Alabama and halfway up the Mississippi Valley, eating rice, corn, sugar cane and tree bark.
But no one expected to find them as far away as Maine. Game wardens who set about solving the Willie Bouchard mystery soon found that Maine has its own McIlhenny. A Washburn man had started raising nutrias and some had managed to escape. This may lead to as much trouble on the creeks down East as in the bayous down South. As for the rest of the country—well, it's at least flanked and maybe enveloped.
There used to be a vaudeville song with the refrain, "Fish don't perspire—hello, hello, hello." However that may be, it is possible that fish are sometimes discontent, environmentally or perhaps even politically. Recently, some odd-looking salmon appeared along the northern shores of Scotland and Norway. They were pinker and blunter than they should have been. Investigation proved that they were hatched from eggs which the Russians had picked up in the Pacific and planted in the cold water near Murmansk. Apparently seeking sanctuary, the salmon swam south and west toward the warmer water of democracy. They are of the species Oncorhyncus gorbuscha, akin to the quinnat or king salmon, and they are of course welcome in the free world.
CODDLING THE BOYS
In case you have gone through life wondering what star athletes eat, and how, here is a memo distributed to hotel dining room staffers by Baltimore Colts Coach Weeb Ewbank:
"Please serve beef bouillon to all persons eating the pregame breakfast. Also French, Roquefort and Russian dressing is to be available on each table, along with toast, butter, honey and pitchers of coffee. No milk is to be served at the pregame meal.
"No one is to be served the lettuce salad or the baked potato, since a number of the boys do not want either. Therefore, please place on a separate table 15 baked potatoes and 30 lettuce salads—and those who desire either may help themselves.