Nutria originated in South America and were brought to Louisiana for the fur trade in the 1930's. At that time there was a large market for fur as fur coats were the rage. The nutria escaped, or were released, into the Louisiana marshes. In the 40's they were valued as a natural control of water hyacinth and other aquatic weeds, and they were transplanted to coastal regions throughout southeast Louisiana. Populations soared, and it became apparent that the nutria were destroying marsh wetlands, rice fields and sugar cane crops. The state promoted nutria fur as a natural resource and the population declined up until the 80's, when animal rights activists came out against wearing fur. Through the 90's populations increased and more wetlands damage was incurred. The state continues to monitor and work towards balancing the Nutria population. The festival is part of that effort. It is conducted early in January every year and is advertised as one of the "oldest and coldest" festivals in Louisiana. Nutria skinning is only one of the activities at the festival. If you attended you could also enjoy a duck and goose calling competition, trap shooting, a gumbo cook-off and crowning of the fur queen.
Maybe next year we should plan on attending! Have you had the opportunity to attend a festival that is a bit different than most?