The Louisiana fur trade existed in colonial times; however, the state’s role as a major source of fur did not emerge until the twentieth century. The early market focused largely on muskrats along the coastal regions of the state. Muskrats are prone to swings in population. Capitalists, such as E.A. McIlhenny, introduced nutria to Louisiana under the guise that they would supplement the native fur industry despite warnings from the Bureau of Biological Survey. Once these entrepreneurs found it difficult to make a profit from nutria, they set many of their animals free. Soon after their introduction to the wild in the 1940s, the nutria population exploded. Further, individual and government actors, along with natural events such as hurricanes, spread nutria to almost the entire coastal region of the state. The nutria damaged crops, such as sugarcane and rice, and farmers labeled them an invasive species or a species that damages the existing environment. Through innovative marketing approaches put into place by government agencies such as the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), nutria became valuable in the 1960s and 1970s and prompted a golden age of nutria trapping. This entailed a resurgence of trapping efforts and preserved culture practices built around trapping. However, new technologies augmented these cultural practices. Soon larger cultural and climatic changes led to the decline of the entire fur industry and in turn nutria overpopulation. Conversations between state agents and politicians led to the current control program, the Coastwide Nutria Control Program. Passed in 2002, this program is successful at controlling the nutria population which in turn preserves the wetlands. This bounty program subsequently provides supplemental income to the descendants of trappers and preserves a labor and cultural practice of trapping in Louisiana. This practice entails a day to day relationship with the marsh.
|Commitee:||Martin, Micheal, Parker, Chad|
|School:||University of Louisiana at Lafayette|
|School Location:||United States -- Louisiana|
|Source:||MAI 58/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||American history, Environmental Studies|
|Keywords:||Coastal, Enviroment, Fur, Louisiana, Nutria|
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