Significance to humans

The fur of a farm-bred coypu is valued because of its luxurious, fine, soft undercoat, which is processed by furriers (by first removing the coarser bristles in order to leave the undercoat exposed). It is also hunted for its meat mostly in its native lands, although farm-raised meat is much more convenient. There is no direct benefit from coypu populations in its non-native habitat. Some were introduced in some habitats to control invasive aquatic plant populations, but its appetite for all plant species made its presence at those areas more damaging than beneficial.

The coypu is considered a pest in some places because its burrows often damage dikes, irrigation facilities, and natural plant communities. Burrows can also weaken riverbanks. The coypu population often competes with native wildlife, and also eats and sometimes destroys cultivated crops such as rice. Parasites from coypus have been reported such as trematodes, cestodes, nematodes, biting lice, and mites. Diseases and viruses from coypus have also been reported, such as lep-tospirosis, hemorrhagic septicemia, and paratyphoid. In wetlands, its large appetite has severely damaged many habitats. On barrier islands where coypu feed on sea oats, the stability of sea dunes has been threatened.

In the 1930s, coypus were introduced to fur farms in southeast England. Escaped individuals adapted quickly to the new habitat and caused considerable damage to riverbanks and root crops. An eradication campaign in the 1960s resulted in the extermination of most of the wild population (approximately 40,000 animals caught), but a string of mild winters in the 1970s brought significant growth. A more committed eradication campaign in the early 1980s resulted in 35,000 captured individuals, with the last coypu caught in England in 1989.

A litter of young coypus (Myocastor coypus) sleeping on log in Lake Martin, Louisiana, USA. (Photo by Animals Animals ©Eastcott/Momatiuk. Reproduced by permission.)

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