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Rodents Invasion! Dog-Sized Rodents Called Capybaras Flock In Florida

Aug 24, 2016 06:03 AM EDT

Dog-sized, 150-pound rodents are among the latest invasive species swarming in Florida.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, they are called the Capybaras. These rodents which are as large as an average golden retriever may seem odd but they are highly sociable animals, the report said.

With its admirable climate, Florida has been a melting pot of odd and wild species. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said more than 500 fish and wildlife non-native species, also known as exotic species, have been observed in the area. Their records show the Capybara was first spotted in Florida at Alachua in 2000.

The large rodents, which usually stand 1.5 feet and weigh 150 pounds, are native to South America and no one really knows how they reached Florida. They have also been spotted all over the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro since the Summer Games.

In an interview with Orlando Sentinel, biologist Elizabeth Congdon, an assistant professor at Bethune-Cookman University, said this could be the beginning of a serious capybara problem-and it might be the fault of exotic pet owners. Because capybaras are strange species, they have been eyed as pets by some people.

Capybaras, according to San Diego Zoo, is a semi-aquatic species that feed on grass and water plants. They spend most of their time in estuaries, marshes, river banks; swimming using their webbed feet and hiding from their predators in thick water vegetation. Just like a hippo, their eyes and ears are positioned on their head, making them very suited for living in the water. They can stay underwater for up to five minutes at a time to hide from predators.

Because they are herbivores, they do not pose immediate threat to humans. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said they are threatened by the large internal market for the skins. Capybara leather is valued in South America and from 1976 to 1979 almost 80,000 skins were exported from Argentina.

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