Top News

According to Louisiana, the family will not be able to keep their beloved pet nutria “Neuty.”

A Louisiana couple broke state law by keeping a 22-pound nutria — a beady-eyed, orange-toothed, rat-tailed rodent commonly considered a wetland-damaging pest — as a pet who frolics with their dog and socializes cuddles him arms and swims in the family pool.

Denny and Myra Lacoste tell news outlets in New Orleans they are devastated at the possible loss of “Neuty,” a pet they say they raised from a young age when his siblings were killed in traffic. The move by state wildlife and fisheries officials to say it’s illegal to keep an orphaned or injured wild animal as a pet has sparked a campaign of petitions by those who want it to stay with the people who raised it.

The State Wildlife Department says the plan is to house Neuty at the Baton Rouge Zoo. But it’s unclear when that will happen. A department statement on Friday said officers went Thursday to remove the pet from the Lacoste residence in the New Orleans area.

“The nutria was not at the residence when agents arrived,” the department said. “The matter is not yet closed.”

Introduced to North America more than a century ago, nutria are considered a troublesome invasive species in Louisiana. Their appetite for wetland vegetation and burrowing into levees hinder flood control, harm agriculture, and contribute to the loss of coastal wetlands. At various times, officials have put bounties on their heads and encouraged hunting them for their pelts and even food.

They are sometimes derided as “coypu rats”. However, 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 – Boudreaux and Clotilde – as mascots.

Neuty was tiny when Denny Lacoste, who runs a family seafood restaurant, rescued him from a road near a canal more than two years ago. Lacoste told news outlets in New Orleans that the little animal’s siblings had been killed by traffic.

Now the animal is a social media star, featured in TikTok videos and featured in a New Orleans Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate video being lovingly held by Denny Lacoste, with a towel over it scurrying the ground and munching a raw crawfish. Lacoste told the newspaper that Neuty even likes to ride in the car with his head out the window.

The Baton Rouge Zoo said it is willing to give Neuty a home in an area with another male nutria. “In most cases, the animal would have been released back into the wild. However, LDWF biologists and zoo officials said that because the animal has been habituated to humans, it could not survive in the wild,” the wildlife department said.

David Grunfeld/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP

Denny Lacoste holds a rescued baby nutria Monday in Metairie, La. (David Grunfeld/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP)