SOME NOTES ON THE COYPU By LT.-COL. M .
ST. J .
Although the coypu had been seen after the war on the marshes of the River Hundred four miles south of Beccles, it was not until the spring of 1954 that I was aware that they had arrived on the lake in front of the house at Sotterley. Some of the first arrivals were accidentally caught in rabbit traps in a small brick culvert. This disaster appears to have discouraged them and they were seen no more. The lake referred to is about two acres in extent and is connected by a small stream to the Hundred River. DĂźring the summer both lake and stream are overgrown with rushes and various water weeds. It was late spring of this year when I first noticed a number of rushes lying on the surface of the water and saw one adult coypu feeding on the bank. Before long there was a marked reduction in the area of rushes and we noticed that there were about eight platforms built of rushes at water level, each about one foot Square. Coypu were occasionally seen preening themselves and quietly swimming from one to another. In July we received a visit from the Lowestoft Field Club and they had the good fortune to see two adult and four or five young swimming directly below them under a foot bridge. We find coypu exceedingly shy and seldom see them except through field glasses. They appear to be entirely vegetarian, eating the rushes below water level, and here they are particularly welcome as the lake for the first time for many years is clear of weeds and rushes. They do not burrow into the bank and as far as I can see they have no bad habits. They have not eaten any kale or sugar beet. I believe the colony to number twelve. In appearance they resemble large rats, but in colour and size hares. The young are paler in colour than the adult. They are ungainly on the land, their movements being lethargic. When grazing on grass I notice they lift up their heads every few moments as if they have difficulty in swallowing. Their black ears give their heads a slightly badger-like appearance. In the water they are difficult to see as they swim with just the nose above the water and if surprised dive immediately. When eating rushes in shallow water, they make a considerable crunching noise which can easily be heard at ten yards. As the coypu have now (October) consumed most of the rushes on the lake, I shall be interested to see if they will make their way further upstream in search of food and it will also be of interest to learn how they survive during a spell of hard frost.