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(Filmmaker Chris Metzler who ‘s Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone is a must see is back with Rodents of Unusual Size which he co-directed with Quinn Costello and Jeff Springer. The film is playing a ridiculous amount of upcoming fests such as Kansas City Film Fest, FreeP Film Festival, EarthX Film Festival, Sarasota, Newport Beach, Independent Film Festival of Boston and SF DocFest.)

Rodents of Unusual Size, a documentary by Quinn Costello, Chris Metzler, and Jeff Springer, cleverly borrows its title from the inconceivably ginormous rat-like creatures that threaten the lives of The Princess Bride‘s Westley and Buttercup in the Fire Swamp. The species of rodents in this documentary, however, are not just monsters in a fairytale, they are quite real. (Now that R.O.U.S.’s are real, should we have to start looking out for flame spurts and lightning sand too?)

Known in the United States as nutria, these semiaquatic herbivorous rodents weigh in around 20 lbs and grow to about 2 ft in length. The supersized rats originated in South America, where they caught the eye of fur traders. In the 1930s, they were fatefully introduced to the Louisiana ecosystem, escaping from fur farms and breeding in the wild. Each female nutria can spawn hundreds of offspring, prompting the population to grow at alarmingly exponential proportions.

Armed with large bright orange incisors, millions of Nutria have relentlessly chomped away at the Gulf’s highly sensitive wetlands. Not only do these biodiverse systems provide a wide spectrum of environmental benefits, but wetlands also protect human populations from storm surges and flooding. If you have read anything about the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, you have probably come across some mention of the loss of wetlands in the Gulf exacerbating the impact of the storm. With hurricane activity (and strength) in the Gulf seemingly increasing, the role of the wetlands has become all the more important.

Narrated by Wendell Pierce and featuring interviews with a menagerie of flavorful locals (a natural benefit of shooting in southern Louisiana), Rodents of Unusual Size mixes quirky humor with the stark reality of the situation. Costello, Metzler, and Springer fixate on Louisiana, where many of the residents are still suffering from repercussions of Katrina.

A primary focus of Rodents of Unusual Size is the population control strategies for the nutria. Led by the Coastwide Nutria Control Program, hundreds of thousands of nutria are killed by licensed hunters, awarding a bounty of $5 for each nutria tail turned in to a Coastal Environments Inc. official. This program injects millions of dollars into the Louisiana economy in demographics and regions that have felt the brunt of Katrina’s economic wrath. While this program might cause a moral conundrum for some animal rights activists, it seems the mass slaughter of nutria is our only chance for rejuvenating the wetlands. Unless you happen to have another idea for controlling the population growth of nutria?

– Don Simpson (@thatdonsimpson)


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