Photo: The Carpincho (capybara) native to South American being seen in California
Known as the world’s largest rodent, a capybara, or Carpincho as it is known in Spanish, has been sighted in California, quite a long way from its usual South American home.
Though there have been three sightings of the carpincho in Paso Robles, California in the last three years, scientists say it is likely just the same one.
The most recent sighting was had by workers at the Paso Robles Wastewater Treatment Plant. It was reportedly eating vegetation in the sewer ponds, and workers snapped a photo of the not-so-little guy before it submerged itself back into the water.
Tom Tognazzini of the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) told KCOY 12, “About three years ago, we had a second hand report from Hunter Ranch Golf Course of a capybara in the lake system. That sighting was never verified.”
He added, “The second sighting was a on a farm. The property owner called to report they had a capybara stealing alfalfa hay from their horses. The property owner came out, discharged a shotgun round at the capybara and didn’t know whether or not they had hit it.”
The capybara is a slightly web-footed rodent with reddish-brown hair, a barrel-shaped body, and a blunt-ended head/face. Males of he species typically weigh 75 to 135 lbs, while females tend to be a bit heavier and weight 80 to 145 lbs.
Though capybara’s primarily live in South America, it is believed their larger ancestors lived in North America, and are related closest to agouti, chinchillas, coyphillas, and guinea pigs.
It is not certain how the rodent made its may so far north, but Tognazzini said, “It’s likely it was an illegal pet that somehow escaped or was released.”
The DFG has not yet set traps, but if it is caught it already has a home waiting at Zoo To You. If not caught, the rodent may not last much longer in the wild. On average, capybara live just four years in the wild, though live up to 12 years in captivity.