HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Hancock County officials are scrambling to deal with thousands of dead nutria that washed ashore on beaches during Hurricane Isaac.
The dead swamp rats have started to stink and officials say that could cause a health and environmental hazard to people.
"They're in the tide and just floating in and they're probably going to continue coming in over the next several days," said Waveland Mayor David Garcia. "There's no telling how many thousands we're going to have."
Officials with the Department of Environmental Quality say so far they've counted more than 5,000 dead nutria rats on Hancock County beaches, but they say that number could top 10,000 before they all finish washing ashore.
You may recall Hancock County faced a similar Nutria problem after Hurricane Gustav.
"If you're out here, it's a terrible smell," Garcia said. "As this heat continues, they're just going to blow up and pop, making it even more of a health hazard."
County leaders have asked MEMA for help. They are hoping state officials will hire crews and pay for removal and disposal. If that doesn't happen, officials will have to contract out the job themselves.
"Either way, we've got a time frame that we need to get out there and get it taken care of," said Hancock County Road Manager Bill Johnson. "Regular debris can sit out there for a little while until we take care of it. Because it's such a large quantity of carcasses that need to be cleaned up immediately, we've got a short window here. They just get to the point where they are unbearable."
A decision on whether MEMA will fund the clean-up operation is expected Saturday morning.
The Hancock County Emergency Management Agency says they have closed Beach Boulevard from Lakeshore Road through Bay St. Louis and Waveland while officials try to clean up some 15,000+ nutria that washed up on the beach there.