THE discovery of a highly invasive, one-metre-long rodent on the banks of the River Lee in recent days has been described as a 'serious issue' with the public urged to report any sightings of the South American Coypu.
The animal has been described as a very large rat with distinctive large orange-yellow teeth. They have been linked to the spread of diseases such as toxoplasmosis and leptospirosis.
Council officials believe two or three of the animals were released on the Curraheen River near the greyhound track two years ago.
Efforts have been ongoing to eradicate them as they have already begun breeding.
So far 10 Coypus have been caught and removed from the Curraheen River.
However last week there was a sighting of one of the animals in the River Lee from the footbridge near Victoria Cross.
This is the first time they have been spotted in the Lee and indicates they have spread further than was previously known within the catchment.
Staff of Cork County Council on lunch breaks in the Lee Fields have been asked to report any sightings of the Coypu to the local wildlife ranger.
"This is a highly invasive non-native mammal which is in the group of species which must be dealt with immediately and with priority if and when they are recorded in Ireland," officials said in an email to council staff.
The Coypu are highly invasive and cause significant damage by burrowing into the river banks causing collapse, and by clearing natural river vegetation as they are herbivores.
They are also known to cause significant crop damage in places where they have been introduced previously.
Anyone who spots one of the animals is urged to try and get a picture and note the location.