A few years ago, I was walking along the side of the river in Sauve at about midday. As I passed the little beach-like area, I saw a creature sitting, calmly washing itself in rodenty fashion on the opposite bank. I asked some of the Sauve kids what it was. ‘C’est un ragondin.’ I was none the wiser, so looked it up: a coypu.
Since then they have moved into the region big time. For the first year or two, you would see them swimming in the river occasionally, but like boar only two or three times a year. Since last summer, you see them more or less everyday.
Last year, there was a family living in a burrow, just near the new bridge. They were completely unfazed by people watching them and taking photos and would swim right by the bridge as if showing off, sometimes four at a time. By autumn they had disappeared, only to return this summer to the same spot.
A few weeks ago they disappeared again. We all thought that they probably headed off to deeper water downstream for winter, which seems to be the case. Last sunday, we walked along the river to our friends’ garden/allotment, about a mile out of town. They said that when they arrived that afternoon there were a group of ragondin hanging around the garden, trying not to look suspicious whilst snacking on some of the salad growing there.
We sat around chatting for while and suddenly, one of them appeared. It seemed completely comfortable with us being there and strolled around in a proprietorial manner. It also did a lot of myopic peering, a thing that gives them their cartoonish charm.
Luckily, I had my newly repaired camera with me, so approached it slowly and started taking shots. It ignored me. It was only when I was about a foot away that it moved, but only a short distance, probably because it saw some more tempting foodstuff.
They are a bit of a pest. I’ve heard stories of them vandalising gardens, not by eating the produce but by seemingly taking pleasure in uprooting garden produce and just throwing it about. The guy in the adjacent garden has shot a few already.