Nutria (Myocastor coypus), a semi-aquatic, South American rodent was first released into Dorchester County, Maryland in 1943 for the fur trade. Without predator control, these non-native species became invasive and destroyed thousands of acres of wetlands. Efforts to eradicate nutria began in 2002. As of 2018, all of the known nutria populations have been removed from over a quarter million acres of the Delmarva Peninsula. Marnie Pepper, Direct Supervisor pf the Chesapeake Bay Nutria Eradication Project will share this amazing success story that involved a partnership between, federal, state, and local governments, private citizens, and a legion of Nutria Detector Dogs.

Marnie Pepper received her BS in Wildlife Conservation in 2003 from the University of Delaware and began her career with Delaware Fish and Wildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. In 2006 she returned to the University of Delaware to earn a MS degree in Wildlife Ecology. There she partnered with The US Fish and Wildlife Service studying marsh habitats and secretive wetland birds. She moved to USDA’s Wildlife Services in 2008 and in 2010 she started on The Chesapeake Bay Nutria Eradication Project stationed in Cambridge, Maryland. She developed The Nutria Detector Dog Program through a partnership with the National Detector Dog Training Center (a program within APHIS – Plant Protection and Quarantine). She is a certified Agricultural Detector Dog Handler and a Field Canine Trainer. In 2015 she moved to the role as Project Leader for Chesapeake Bay Nutria Eradication Project.

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