A Louisiana couple has broken state law by keeping a 22-pound otter as a pet
NEW ORLEANS — A Louisiana couple has broken state law by keeping a 22-pound otter (a rat-tailed, orange-toothed, beady-eyed rodent commonly considered a wetland pest) as a pet that frolicks with their dog, snuggle in his arms and swim in the family pool.
Denny and Myra Lacoste told New Orleans media that they are devastated by the possible loss of “Neuty,” a pet they say they raised from infancy when their siblings were killed in traffic. Keeping an orphaned or injured wild animal as a pet has sparked a petition drive by those who want it to stay with the humans who raised it.
The state Department of Wildlife says the plan is to house Neuty at the Baton Rouge Zoo. But it’s unclear when that will happen. A department statement Friday said officials had gone to remove the pet from Lacoste’s New Orleans-area residence on Thursday.
“The otter was not at the residence when officers arrived,” the department said. “The matter is still ongoing.”
Otters were introduced to North America over a century ago and are considered a nuisance invasive species in Louisiana. Their appetite for wetland vegetation and digging into levees make flood control difficult, harm agriculture, and contribute to the loss of coastal wetlands. On several occasions, public officials have offered them rewards and have encouraged hunting them for their skins and even for food.
They are sometimes derided as “otter rats”. However, they have 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.
Neuty was little when Denny Lacoste, who runs a family-owned seafood restaurant, rescued him from a road near a canal more than two years ago. Lacoste told the New Orleans media that the animal’s siblings had died from trafficking.
Now the animal is a social media star, appearing 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 on a towel and chewing a raw crayfish. . 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 was ready to give Neuty a home in an area with another male otter. “In most cases, the animal would have been released back into the wild. However, LDWF biologists and zoo officials said that since the animal has habituated to humans, it would not be able to survive in the wild,” the wildlife department said.