Eagle-eyed student Luke makes national headlines
An observant Wexford student came to the aid of the National Parks and Wildlife Service by spotting a rat-like creature called the Coypu in the River Lee as he walked home from an exam.
Luke Lambert from Forth Mountain, a student of Arts at University College Cork, was on the Kingsley Bridge when he saw what he initially thought was an otter in the water.
'It got out of the water on the opposite side and then re-entered the water and came towards me. When it came closer to me, I thought maybe it was a muskrat. I took a few photographs' said wildlife enthusiast Luke who is studying Geography and hopes to work in the area of conservation.
'It wasn't until I got back to the house that I looked it up and discovered it was a Coypu.'
Luke emailed his photos to the National Parks and Wildlife Service which dispatched them to the RTE newsroom and national newspapers, accompanying an announcement of the sighting along with a statement urging members of the public to report similar sightings as the Coypu can cause extensive damage to riverbanks and other habitats.
'When I was back in Wexford, I got an email asking for my permission to use the photos. They wanted to raise awareness because the coypu can cause a lot of damage. They're native to South America where they are called swamp rats. Apparently two or three of them were released into the Curraheen River which connects with the River Lee, about two years ago,' he said.
'The National Parks and Wildlife Service captured about 10 of them last autumn and thought they had most of them but they are monitoring the situation again now following my sighting,' said Luke.
Danny O' Keeffe, a Conservation Ranger with the NPWS encouraged people to report sightings of the Coypu which can measure up to one metre long from nose to tail.
Mr. O'Keeffe said it is b elieved that the animal was introduced as a novely attraction to a pet farm in Cork but some animals escaped in 2014 and began breeding on the outskirts of Cork city.
'It looks a bit like an otter except it has a rat like tail and it has two orange or yellow teeth - it tends to eat mainly vegetation but it also eats birds eggs but it can decimate crops like sugar beet, carrots and turnips so we are very concerned about its spread,' he said.
'It also burrows into river banks so it can damage earthen flood defences.'
The ranger said people might see them swimming in rivers, or scurrying around river banks like an otter and he urged anyone who comes across a coypu - or even what they think is a coypu - to contact the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
'If someone sees a coypu, it's fine if they want to get a photo. The main thing to let us know is the location, date and time and the more recorded sightings we get, we can bait an area and set traps to catch them because they can cause huge damage,' he said.
Any sightings can be recorded by email to email@example.com.