Northern Ireland

Public urged to be on the look-out for 'one-metre long' rodent following Dublin sightings

Coypu can grow a metre long and weigh up to nine kilos
Coypu can grow a metre long and weigh up to nine kilos

A LARGE South American rodent has been spotted along Dublin's Royal Canal.

Waterways Ireland has warned the public to be on the alert for coypu, which is regarded as an invasive species.

A semi-aquatic creature with bright orange teeth, a long cylindrical tail and webbed back feet have been reported near the Ashtown area on the western outskirts of Dublin city.

The rodents, which can be up to a metre long and weigh up to nine kilos, are said to carry a number of diseases harmful to humans and domestic animals.

In the wake of the recent sightings, Waterways Ireland issued an "invasive species alert" and warned the public not to engage the animals or make any attempt to trap. Instead, people are asked to report sightings and where possible take a photograph.

Coypu are regarded as "highly invasive", impacting on native wildlife, and affecting river and canal bank stability. The herbivorous creature, which was first introduced into Europe in the 19th century for fur farming, is regarded as pest of agriculture crops, being especially fond of carrots and parsnips.

It is thought to have been introduced to Ireland around five years ago, initially as a novelty attraction at a pet farm in Cork. However, some escaped shortly afterwards and began breeding on the outskirts of Cork city. In 2016, 10 coypu were shot on the Curraheen river on the outskirts of the city.

A successful eradication programme in East Anglia in Britain in the 1980s “took 10 years and cost several million pounds sterling”, Waterways Ireland said.