A mysterious rodent turns up

Mike Krumboltz
The Lookout

Yoo-hoo! Anybody missing a jumbo rodent? In Paso Robles, California, a giant South American rodent was spotted lurking around a wastewater-treatment facility before disappearing back into the surrounding area. The news unleashed a flurry of searches on the furry creature. The photos above are courtesy of Kion46/Fox35, where you can read more about the elusive creature.

Witnesses estimate the creature, called a capybara, weighs at least 100 pounds. According to an article from Reuters, the capybara has the dubious honor of being the world's largest rodent. This is the third sighting in three years. Experts believe it is the same creature.

California is a long way from South America, so how did this king-size creature get to the Golden State? The most likely explanation, according to Todd Tognazzini of the California Department of Fish and Game, is that the big beast is an escaped pet. The capybara, which resembles a huge guinea pig, eats vegetation and, despite its intimidating size, is not considered dangerous. It's also kind of cute, as seen on Good Morning America below.

News of the odd animal's appearance sparked a flurry of searches on the Web. Over the past 24 hours, online interest in the animal surged an astounding 9,553%. Related lookups on "capybara pets" also spiked. According to Tognazzini, people have been known to keep the rodents as pets. "The Internet is fraught with examples of people scratching them on the belly and thinking they're cute and making pets of them," he said.

But don't go thinking these things are easy to care for. You need a special permit to have one in California. We imagine it's also a good idea to buy a collar with a nametag. You know, just in case the creature wanders over to a wastewater facility, freaks people out, and causes an online uproar.