Capybara (World's Largest Rodent) Is Safely Home After Escaping

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

TWRA receives calls, messages and emails regularly regarding longstanding myths and more. A common call is, “I heard coyotes hunting last night”. No one ever runs through the woods yelling loudly when they’re hunting. Another is, “I heard a mountain lion screaming”. Cougars are really quiet animals and all recordings received turn out to be red fox; which have a fairly loud scream. A recent message included a video of an adult bobcat thought to be a baby cougar.

  The agency has also been contacted about pterodactyls and sasquatch.


So when a call came in about a capybara, the world’s largest rodent, Monroe County wildlife officers Joe Pike and Kip Kite were a bit hesitant. “I’ve dealt with a lot through the years. I’ve learned to listen and ask good questions,” said Mr. Pike. Mr. Pike and Mr. Kite received a phone call from a frequent visitor to Tellico Wildlife Management Area (WMA) where the animal was spotted on June 19. Both asked the caller to share any photos. Sure enough, when their phones chimed with new messages, a capybara popped up on their screens.


TWRA officials immediately started calling zoos and other institutions looking for a home. “We knew this was a fluke and this was a once in a lifetime happening,” said Mr. Kite. The hope was to capture the animal and get it in safe hands. He said, “We obviously don’t want exotic wildlife running loose. However, we’re overwhelmingly willing to work with organizations for recapture and safe return”.


In the meantime, Officer Kite was working on an inspection at the Citico Wildlife Wilderness, located about five miles from Tellico WMA. The owner mentioned a capybara had escaped through an overflow pipe during recent rains. The mystery immediately came to a close.  Tellico WMA employees spotted the capybara again and contacted the owner who was able to live trap the animal and get it safely home.


All agency employees listen to stories each day. They rely on their education, science and years of experience to help others understand nature’s happenings, wildlife behavior and in this case get an exotic animal back into proper care.


There are many laws concerning exotic animals in Tennessee. TWRA oversees permitting for certain captive wildlife including exotic animals.  For more information on wild animal permitting, visit TWRA at

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