Giant rodent native to South America seen in Calif

August 18, 2011 - 3:42 PM
Calif Capybara Sighting

This image provided by the City of San Luis Obispo shows a capybara, a giant rodent native to South America, that was spotted roaming in California’s Central Coast town of San Luis Obispo, Calif., on Wednesday Aug. 17, 2011. The California Department of Fish and Game estimates the capybara is about 100 to 120 pounds and may be the same one seen at a ranch about a mile from a treatment plant two years ago. (AP Photo/City of San Luis Obispo)

PASO ROBLES, Calif. (AP) — A giant rodent native to South America has been spotted roaming in a city on California's Central Coast.

Workers at a Paso Robles sewage treatment plant captured photos of the capybara swimming in the water storage pond before making its way toward the Salinas River late last month, The Tribune of San Luis Obispo reported Wednesday.

The California Department of Fish and Game estimates the capybara weighs about 100 to 120 pounds and may be the same one seen at a ranch about a mile from the treatment plant a few years ago.

Known as the world's largest rodent, capybaras have brown hair, short heads and barrel-shaped bodies.

"We had an idea of what it was, but we knew it wasn't anything that was native to around here," Nick Kamp, who works at the treatment plant, told the Los Angeles Times.

It's illegal in California to keep a capybara as a pet.

Bob Stafford, a Fish and Game wildlife biologist, said it was likely somebody kept it as a pet and it either escaped or was released into the wild. He said that if there is another capybara sighting at the treatment plant, game wardens will set up traps to capture it and send it to a zoo or animal sanctuary.

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Information from: The Tribune, http://www.sanluisobispo.com