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Pet nutria to be seized from its owners after finding internet fame, moved to Baton Rouge Zoo

1 year 2 months 1 week ago Thursday, March 16 2023 Mar 16, 2023 March 16, 2023 8:50 PM March 16, 2023 in News
Source: WBRZ
Photo: The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate

Editor's note: The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries initially said that Neuty was seized Thursday but amended its statement to say that the pet is not yet in state custody.

BATON ROUGE - Neuty the nutria, an unusual pet whose social media fame exploded in the past week amid numerous profiles at New Orleans-area news outlets, will be removed from his home and relocated to the Baton Rouge Zoo, wildlife officials announced Thursday. 

Neuty had been living with a family in Jefferson Parish for years. Dylan Lacoste, whose family owns Dennis' Seafood in Metairie, told WWL-TV that the large rodent had been in his family since they found him December 2020.

Since then, they says he's become a "spoiled rotten" local celebrity. 

“He eats healthier than me," Lacoste told the station. “He’s good. He really is good. He’s just like a dog."

In a news release Thursday, however, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries announced that Neuty had been seized, noting that owning a nutria — an invasive species — is illegal in Louisiana. The department added that it found out about the illicit pet after multiple news stories were posted about Neuty on Wednesday.

The department said it made arrangements for the Baton Rouge Zoo to take Neuty before seizing him from his owners Thursday. 

Read the full statement from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries below. 

A family's pet nutria is set to be removed from the home of a New Orleans couple and moved to the Baton Rouge Zoo to be part of an educational exhibit, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) announced Thursday.

It is illegal to have a wild animal as a pet, especially a nutria, which is an invasive species and could be a source of health issues.

LDWF discovered the existence of the pet nutria after stories about the animal appeared this week in New Orleans area media. Once the status was made public, the department recommended its removal. The department also started communications with the Baton Rouge Recreation and Park Commission which operates the Baton Rouge Zoo, to find a means of saving the animal.

BREC and Zoo officials agreed Thursday to accept the animal.

After those arrangements were completed, LDWF agents contacted the owners and told them that the animal will be removed and that arrangements have been made with the BR Zoo. In most cases, the animal would be placed back into the wild. However, LDWF biologists and Zoo officials said that because the animal has been habituated to humans, it would not be able to survive in the wild.

It is well known in Louisiana that nutria causes extensive damage to wetlands, agricultural crops, and structural foundations, including roads and dikes. They may also threaten human health and safety and serve as a reservoir for several diseases.

It is against the law in Louisiana to possess injured or orphaned mammals without an LDWF Rehabilitation permit, even if there is a plan to release them. It is illegal to possess wildlife as a pet or for the pet trade. There is no permit for this activity, and no permit will be issued for it.

In a statement issued Thursday, Zoo officials said it "plans to take in the nutria into our animal family after a short stint at a rehabilitation facility…The nutria will join our Ambassador Animal Program.

"The Zoo has another male nutria that's already a part of the ambassador animal program, so the two will eventually be acclimated and brought together. As social animals, the nutria should be comfortably at ease and enjoy this exposure to another animal of the same species.

"The Zoo's professional staff will care for the nutria as they would all other animals within their skilled care and looks forward to bringing a new member into the zoo animal family."

LDWF appreciates the owner's affection for the animal and their understanding of the rules regarding its removal. LDWF discourages the public from housing wild animals as pets.

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