In its native habitat the Nutria is a sizeable herbivorous semi-aquatic rodent. The outer fur is coarse and water repellant, and the underfur is soft and warm. Due to this, many tried to raise nutrias for their fur keeping them in enclosed cages. Showing the cunning of many of Rodentia, some of the Nutria promptly escaped and set up homes in wet marshlands nearby.
The forelegs are small in comparison to the rest of the body. The forepaws have five toes, and the digits are used to groom and to excavate both for food and burrowing. Their hind feet are webbed - an adaptation for their preferred environment. The tail is long and round and susceptible to frostbite in colder weather. When moving on land, the Nutria's chest drags on the ground and its back appears hunched. Although this may appear cumbersome, the Nutria can put on burst of speed for some distance. The ears are small and the eyes are set high on the head. The nose and mouth can be closed to prevent entry of water, and nutria can swim long distances underwater. While swimming underwater, Nutria can take swift evasive action as their vision is quite acute.
They breed year round and are extremely prolific. A Nutria becomes sexually mature around 4-6 months, and babies can survive on their own at 5 days; however, most nurse until 8 weeks. If it weren’t for predation, the Nutria would most likely completely denude the area where it lives. Their burrows are extensive and it is best to step carefully. They also form "hides" by tunneling under matted grass, another walking hazard. At home both in water and on land, it is believed that some of the escaped Nutria found their way into the rainforest near Caernivale. (Either that or some unscrupulous person released a breeding pair or pregnant female there.) During this time, something occurred to greatly increase the Nutria’s size into what we now call the Giant Nutria. Although the cause of this increase is not known, individuals may wish to keep their eyes open for the monograph Cannon-spread God-bits: Unlocking the Puzzle of Verthedge Flora and Fauna Growth as perhaps shedding some light on the subject.
While the Nutria is still herbivorous, subsisting on roots, rhizomes and green matter, it has become extremely territorial and will hiss and growl at intruders. It generally won’t start the confrontation, but it will do its best to finish it.
Their meat is lean and resembles turkey meat in appearance and texture and has a mild taste. It is high in protein and low in fat.
Lady Shannara, on Nutria as a potential meal: “Maybe I'll expand my taste buds and try it after a few MSG's of course.”
Iron Knight Purazon: “I’ve heard they can eat tons of plants and herbs - the rainforest is ideal for that - until they're so big they can even take out a tree”