Can Fur Be Eco-Friendly?

Nutria were originally brought to North America to control unwanted vegetation. They were a little too good at it. Dan Dzurisin/Flickr

No eco-conscious fashionista would wear fur, right? But what if that fur came from nutria, an invasive rodent that has been devastating the wetland ecosystem of Louisiana for decades?

Nutria is the new hot fur in fashion, with designers like Oscar de la Renta, Michael Kors, Patrik Ervell and Gilles Mendel all turning out hats, coats and other luxury items using the aquatic rodent, according to a report from The fur is described as rich, durable, and dense, making it perfect for lining raincoats and other items.

Most of the fur originates from the Coastwide Nutria Control Program, which pays trappers $5 for each nutria tail they turn in. (Managed by the state of Louisiana, the funds for the program come from the federal government.) In the last year, nearly 450,000 tails have been turned in.

What happens to the rest of the animal? The furs often go to China, where they can fetch $1 to $2 per pelt, depending on size and quality.

The program has been successful. "We've gone from 100,000 acres damaged in 2001 to a little more than 8,000 acres damaged now coastwide," program manager Edmond Mouton told

Nutria may not be the hot fur this season, but its use is on the rise, said Keith Kaplan, executive director of the Fur Information Council of America, who added, "Fur is a renewable, sustainable resource. And faux fur is a petroleum product."