Louisiana has been in the news lately, not for its beautiful bayous or delicious Cajun cuisine, but for a story about a 22-pound nutria named Neuty. The story started when wildlife agents showed up at the seafood business of Denny and Myra Lacoste, Neuty’s adoptive family, with the intention of seizing the animal.
According to state law, nutria is an invasive species that can cause significant damage to Louisiana’s coastline, crops, and marshes. The Lacostes, who rescued Neuty two years ago, were told that owning a nutria is prohibited, and that the animal would be taken away from them.
However, what followed was a 33-hour scramble to keep Neuty that involved lawyers and thousands of fans demanding that state officials back off. And it worked! Wildlife officials issued the Lacostes a special permit, allowing them to keep Neuty, so long as they obey certain provisions. This is good news for Neuty and the Lacostes, but it also raises some questions about nutria ownership and their impact on the environment.
Native to South America and imported to Louisiana for their fur, nutrias have been proliferating near the state’s coastal waterways for almost a century. When the fur trade collapsed in the 1940s, thousands of nutrias got loose or were set free. Their numbers exploded, and for decades, they have burrowed under levees, dams, and ditches, weakening and at times destroying parts of the state’s flood-control system. The escalating damage led the state to create a bounty program to encourage hunters and trappers to kill up to 400,000 each year.
While Neuty may seem like a harmless pet, it is important to remember that owning a nutria comes with responsibilities. Nutrias are wild animals, and they require a lot of work and attention. They need special care and a controlled environment to avoid introducing them into the wild, where they can cause ecological damage. Owning a nutria without proper permits can result in hefty fines, and it can be challenging to find a veterinarian who knows how to treat them.
However, if you are interested in helping the environment and preventing the spread of invasive species, there are other ways to get involved. You can participate in local programs that remove invasive plants or animals, report sightings of invasive species, and learn more about the native species in your area. Supporting conservation organizations or volunteering for environmental cleanup projects can also make a difference.
The story of Neuty and the Lacostes reminds us of the importance of responsible pet ownership and environmental stewardship. While the Lacostes were ultimately allowed to keep Neuty, it is essential to understand the potential impact of invasive species on our environment.
If you are interested in helping, there are many ways to get involved in conservation efforts in your community. By working together, we can protect our natural resources and ensure a healthy planet for generations to come.
This article by Nicholas Vincent was first published by OneGreenPlanet on 25 March 2023.
What you can do
Support ‘Fighting for Wildlife’ by donating as little as $1 – It only takes a minute. Thank you.
Fighting for Wildlife supports approved wildlife conservation organizations, which spend at least 80 percent of the money they raise on actual fieldwork, rather than administration and fundraising. When making a donation you can designate for which type of initiative it should be used – wildlife, oceans, forests or climate.