The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
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Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris (Linnaeus, 1766)

Common name: capybara

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: This mammal is covered in reddish-brown fur, athough very thinly.  They have a very large, block-like head with large teeth resembling that of a beaver.  The ears are small and round.  Their feet are webbed for swimming. The Capybara is a semi-aquatic mammal and the largest rodent in the world weighing up to 150 pounds and standing two feet tall at the shoulders and four feet in length (Mones and Ojasti, 1986).

Size: Up to 150 lbs.

Native Range: Its native range is most of South America, except for mountainous areas in the west (Herrera and MacDonald, 1989; Mones and Ojasti, 1986).

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Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris are found here.

StateYear of earliest observationYear of last observationTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
Florida199020177Big Cypress Swamp; Lower St. Johns; Lower Suwannee; Myakka; Oklawaha; Santa Fe; Withlacoochee
Mississippi201320131Lower Mississippi-Natchez

Table last updated 5/25/2018

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: They inhabit freshwater rivers, lakes, swamps, and marshes, grazing on aquatic plants. All types of lowland freshwater habitats including floodplains (Mones and Ojasti, 1986). They require water for drinking, dry land for resting, and grazing lands for foraging (Mones and Ojasti, 1986).

Means of Introduction: Capybaras are known to be kept as pets in United States. It is suspected that the Florida population is the result of escapees from a private residence.

Status: A population may be established in the Santa Fe River drainage in north-central Florida.

Impact of Introduction: Capybaras do very on cattle ranches and may compete for forage with cattle; management for cattle is well suited to their needs (Mones and Ojasti, 1986). There are no known investigations into its impacts in Florida. More than 80 parasite names, including many tick species, are found in the literature associated with Capybaras (Mones 1981 as cited in Mones and Ojasti, 1986).

Remarks: They breed all year long based on where they they live latitudinally; the frequency increases at the onset of the rainy season (Mones and Ojasti, 1986). Gestation is about 150 days and the young are born mostly in the fall season (Mones and Ojasti, 1986). One litter is generally the rule; the average litter size is 5 and ranges from 1 to 8 (Mones and Ojasti, 1986). No nest nests are built, but will seek cover from predators to give birth (Mones and Ojasti, 1986). They reach sexual maturity at 30 to 40 kg or about 1.5 years and live to about 12 years of age (Mones and Ojasti, 1986). Herds average about 10 per hectare, but as high as 200 have been reported, and spend most of their core time in about 1 hectare (Mones and Ojasti, 1986). Herds move around adjusting to droughts and floods (Herrera and MacDonald, 1989). Capybaras are selective grazing herbivores feeding on aquatic and semiaquatic plants of the highest protein content (Herrera and MacDonald, 1989; Mones and Ojasti, 1986). Capybaras live in herds from a just a pair to more complex groups of 15 or more (Mones and Ojasti, 1986). They are hunted for their hides, meat, and as vermin in their native South America (Mones and Ojasti, 1986).

References: (click for full references)

Herrera, E.A. and D.W. MacDonald. 1989. Resource utilization and territoriality in group-living capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris). Journal of Animal Ecology 58:667-679.

Mones, A. 1981. Estudios sobre la familia Hydrochoeridae (Rodentia), XI. Parasitos y patologias de Hydrochoerus Brisson, 1792. Lista preliminar. Res. y Com. Jornadas Cienc. Nat., Montevideo 2:16.

Mones, A. and J. Ojasti. 1986. Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris. Mammalian Species 164:1-7.

Author: Benson, A.J.

Revision Date: 6/3/2013

Citation Information:
Benson, A.J., 2019, Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris (Linnaeus, 1766): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=2587, Revision Date: 6/3/2013, Access Date: 2/20/2019

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

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The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2019]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [2/20/2019].

Contact us if you are using data from this site for a publication to make sure the data are being used appropriately and for potential co-authorship if warranted. For queries involving fish, please contact Matthew Neilson. For queries involving invertebrates, contact Amy Benson.