Louisiana strikes deal for family to keep pet nutria
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – After much public outcry, state officials are now saying they will let a Louisiana couple keep a 22-pound nutria – a protruding-eyed, orange-toothed, tailed rodent of a rat generally considered a wetland – damaging pest – like a pet that frolics with its dog, cuddles in its arms and swims in the family swimming pool.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, in a statement Friday, said Myra and Denny Lacoste were allowed to apply for a permit so they could legally keep Neuty le Nutria in their New Orleans home, reported The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate. . Montoucet said permit details were being finalized.
The announcement came after more than 17,000 people signed an online petition demanding that the state leave Neuty and his family alone.
“I think this is a good conclusion for all parties,” said Jack Montoucet, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
The rodent has lived with the Lacostes for more than two years. The Wildlife Department first said Thursday that it had arranged for the animal to be transported to the Baton Rouge Zoo, citing state law prohibiting possession of a nutria, which is considered an invasive species. But after the response, the agency provided special conditions allowing the family to keep the nutria as a pet in accordance with the law, according to the newspaper.
“We are beyond ecstasy,” said Myra Lacoste.
Denny Lacoste encountered the injured animal in 2020 when his siblings were killed in traffic. He and his wife hand-fed the animal until it was able to eat on its own. Then they raised him as a pet.
Now the animal is a social media star, featured in TikTok videos and seen in a New Orleans Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate video lovingly held by Denny Lacoste, scampering around on a floor with a towel and chewing on a crawfish raw . Lacoste told the newspaper that Neuty even liked to get in the car with his head out the window.
Myra Lacoste said she and her husband agreed to several stipulations, including regular veterinary checkups and being kept in a cage at the family seafood business, in order to keep their pet.
The nutria was introduced to North America over a century ago and is considered a harmful invasive species in Louisiana. Their appetite for wetland vegetation and their burial in levees hinder flood control, harm agriculture and contribute to the loss of coastal wetlands. On several occasions, officials put bounties on them and encouraged their hunting for their skins and even for their food.
They are sometimes referred to as “nutria rats”. Yet they’ve also become such a familiar part of the Louisiana landscape and lore that a minor league baseball team in New Orleans once employed costumed actors as larger-than-life caricatures of the creatures as mascots. – Boudreaux and Clotilde.
Now that the ordeal is over, Myra Lacoste said: “We can’t wait to hold it and kiss it.”