One of this week’s Straight Dope Classics, supplemented by a helpful reader: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/950/what-was-the-deal-with-jimmy-carter-and-the-killer-rabbit
This reader suggested that Carter was not attacked by a killer rabbit, but rather a nutria.
Our reader claimed that the nutria is “The world’s largest rodent … is very aggressive. Native to South America and valued for its durable fur”
First off, Cecil took care of the false claim that the nutria is the world’s largest rodent.
But this reader’s is a potpourri of mistaken nutriaology.
Rodents in general, being a prey animal, are only aggressive on the defense, when there is no choice to run away. Or swim away.
So our nutria would not be on the attack. It is possible that the nutria was seeking to board the boat, but again, this is not an amphibious assault, rather an attempt to join the President in his little boat as a means of shelter and rest from the stress of swimming.
But nutria are accomplished swimmers, so it is questionable whether a nutria would attempt an unauthorized boarding of a ship rather than continuing to swim across the body of water.
The hypothetical nutria, however, may not have been able to actually board the vessel due to the shape of a boat. This would have required the nutria to leap out of the water to grab the upper edge of the boat, as the lower parts of the boat curve inward to the water line.
Our nutria would generally not attempt to place itself near any creature so large as a human, and would not attempt to get in the boat if it saw such a large creature in the boat.
If it did climb aboard the vessel, upon seeing the large human with a stick, the nutria would likely hop back into the water and swim away.
This presumes that the nutria was unfamiliar with humans. Nutria are actually quite docile when accustomed to humans and well-fed. As an example, at the zoo in Amsterdam, the nutria can be found in a small pond-type display. This structure has no barriers that would prevent the nutria from leaving it and roaming about the zoo should they want. There is also no means of preventing human visitors from approaching the nutria and touching them. Which I did, and suffered no attack, despite being seriously outnumbered by the gang of nutria. The nutria accepted some light petting (non-sexual sense of the term) without reaction.
Thus our nutria chose to remain in their little pond, happy with the availability of water and regular feeding.
Finally, no one values the fur of the nutria. Except the nutria.