WAVELAND, Miss. (CBS Houston/AP) — Crews in Mississippi are cleaning up thousands of dead swamp rats that washed ashore from Hurricane Isaac.

The Sun Herald reports that an estimated 16,000 to 18,000 nutria — semiaquatic, rat-like rodents — and other dead animals washed up in Hancock County after drowning in Hurricane Isaac’s storm surge.

A federal contractor, U.S. Environmental Services, will dump the bodies in a landfill rated to take household garbage.

Hancock County Supervisor David Yarborough says county crews tried to deal with a similar problem after Hurricane Gustav and many workers got sick.

“We don’t want anybody out here in the stuff,” Yarborough told The Associated Press. “They’re actually starting to swell up and bust. It smells really bad. So, any sightseers, you might want to second guess this one before you come out.”

Chad Lafontaine, with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, told the Sun Herald that most of the nutria in Hancock County were on the beach, but some were still floating or in the surf.

“Most are dry and can be identified as nutria,” Lafontaine explained to the Herald. “Contractors are looking at getting boats to scoop the others out of the water.”

Neighboring Harrison County has fewer dead nutria. Officials say county crews removed nearly 16 tons of dead animals from its beaches Saturday and Sunday. Supervisor Kim Savant says they were still washing up Monday.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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