BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — After much public outcry, state officials now say they will let a Louisiana couple keep a 22-pound nutria — a small-eyed, orange-toothed, rat-tailed rodent commonly considered a wetland- harmful pest — like a pet who mess with their dog, snuggle up in their arms, and swim in the family pool.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, in a statement on Friday, said Myra and Denny Lacoste can apply for a permit so they can legally keep Neuty la Nutria in their New Orleans home, The Times-Picayune reported. / The New Orleans Advocate. Montoucet said the details of the permit are 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 Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Jack Montoucet.
The rodent has been living with the Lacoste for more than two years. The wildlife department initially said Thursday it had arranged for the animal to be transported to the Baton Rouge Zoo, citing state law that prohibits ownership 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 within the limits of the law, according to the newspaper.
“We are beyond enthusiastic,” said Myra Lacoste.
Denny Lacoste met the injured animal in 2020 when his brothers 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 across the floor with a towel and chewing on a shrimp raw . Lacoste told the paper that Neuty even likes to drive with his head out the window.
Myra Lacoste said she and her husband agreed to several stipulations, including regular vet checkups and keeping him caged when he was on the family fish business, to support their pet.
Coypu were introduced to North America more than a century ago and are considered a nuisance invasive species in Louisiana. Their appetite for wetland vegetation and their digging at levees hinders flood control, harms agriculture, and contributes to the loss of coastal wetlands. On various occasions, public officials have imposed bounties on them and encouraged them to be hunted for their skins and even food.
They are sometimes mocked as “nutria rats”. Yet they’ve also become such a familiar part of the Louisiana landscape and lore that a New Orleans minor league baseball team 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’re eager to hold him tight and kiss him.”