Pint-sized dogs used to hunt nutria on Bayou St. John

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by Lucy Bustamante / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on March 16, 2010 at 9:41 PM

NEW ORLEANS - It's a very Louisiana kind of problem to have: nutria causing erosion along Bayou St. John.

The neighbors have been dealing with the problem for years. But lately, it has gotten so bad they had to call in the dogs, the little dogs that is.

Walking the dog along the bayou is just one of the peaceful perks of living in Faubourg St.John, until people started to fall into large holes created by huge nutrias.

"I know someone who almost broke a leg getting into a canoe through a hole in the side of the bayou," said Bobby Wozniak, a Faubourg St. John resident.

Wozniak lives here and has taken on the task of fixing the problem. When someone told him to call the SWAT team to shoot the nutria the way Jefferson Parish did back in 1995, Wozniak wanted a more peaceful solution.

Using a SWAT team shoot the creatures was "Not a great option in this populated neighborhood," he said.

They even tried to plant dafodils because he learned the nurtria won't go near these flowers, but the nutria didn't mind those either.

So Tuesday, while some dogs are here for a stroll, Mike Hotard brought his dog for different reason.

"He's itching to get in the hole to go find 'em," he said of his dog Sybil, a Patterdale terrier. "The Patterdale terrier seems the most effective."

Hotard owns Hotard Wildlife Control and Wozniak and his neighbors have hired him and his little terriers to kill the nutria.

"I thought the method was most unique," said Wozniak. "I'm really a country boy at heart."

And a good thing because Mike Hotard - also a country boy- brought a very country method to a city bayou.

"Well, I grew up hunting and I use the dogs," said Hotard. "They (nutria) are very destructive, but these dogs are very well-trained and they basically come out unharmed. They hold them in one place and we dig down and remove them."

They kept track of Sybil with a little orange box and her tracking collar. About an hour after she started, she found one, pinned it and killed it. Hotard and his team dug in, got it and buried it.

"I didn't know that they damage that they cause was this severe," said Hotard.

A 100-yard tunnel was found along the bayou.

"It's destroying the levees. There's tunneling underneath this ground that we're standing on causing it to collapse," said Hotard.

Wozniak and the 400 interested neighbors will foot the bill for Hotard Wildlife's Services, and they don't mind spending the money to kill a Louisiana rodent before it kills their Louisiana lifestyle.

Hotard wrapped up the hunt after he says his dogs killed two more nutria and got tired. But Hotard didn't want us to show the dogs pulling up the nutria. We'll check in with Hotard next week, as they say this could take at least three more sessions.

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