WAVELAND (AP) — Crews are pitchforking dead nutria into front-end loaders on Hancock County beaches.
Officials with the Hancock County Emergency Management Agency say some streets with access to the beach have been closed while workers in hazardous materials suits try and pick up the carcasses.
Hancock County EMA officials estimate more than 15,000 nutria — large semiaquatic rodents — that were killed by Isaac's storm surge have washed up on the beach.
"We don't want anybody out here in the stuff," said Hancock County Supervisor David Yarborough. "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."
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency is paying for the removal and disposal of the carcasses by U.S. Environmental Services. The company will dump the bodies in a Pecan Grove landfill rated to take household garbage.
Yarborough said county crews tried to deal with a similar problem after Hurricane Gustav and many workers got sick.
In Harrison County, sand-beach crews removed nearly 16 tons of dead animals from its beaches Saturday and Sunday. Supervisor Kim Savant says they were still washing up Monday.
Harrison County decided it didn't want to wait on the federal government to do the job, Savant said.
Chad Lafontaine, with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, said Monday 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 said. "Contractors are looking at getting boats to scoop the others out of the water."
He said crews will leave the carcasses that are out in the marsh and aren't in public-use or residential areas.
"We're letting mother nature take care of those," he said.
Information from: The Sun Herald, WLOX-TV and Sea Coast Echo.