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Nutria young (Myocastor coypus) playing and fighting in Houston.Maybe you’ve heard that old urban legend about the guy who adopts what he thinks is a puppy. The location changes: sometimes it’s Mexico, sometimes the Bay Area. The “guy” can be anything from a tourist unfamiliar with the fauna of the region he’s visiting to a mom coerced by her puppy-loving kids. But one aspect is consistent: the “puppy” is not actually a puppy. It’s a giant, monstrous rat. In Texas and Louisiana, this urban legend usually ends with a nutria. Quite literally a rodent of unusual size, nutria (Myocastor coypus, scientifically) can reach 22 pounds and two feet in length (not counting their ratlike tail, which can grow as long as a foot and a half). The species is originally from South America and…

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