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            February 25, 2007

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The Coati is a mammal similar to the raccoon, but the species has a characteristic, long snout and bear-like paws. Coatimundis have a reddish, brown or dark coat, depending on the species, with a lighter under-part and a white-ringed tail in most cases. All coatis share a slender head with an elongated, slightly upward-turned nose, small ears, dark feet and a long, non-prehensile tail used for balance and signalling. Coatimundis are actually diurnal, sleeping in the trees at night, but spend most of the day searching for food on the ground, poking their long noses into the leaves and crevices. They are so adept at arboreal life, they actually mate in the trees as well as give birth to and raise their young. Those double jointed ankles come in really handy when descending trees, it enables them to go down headfirst. They are very social, and live in groups as mentioned, although males tend to be more solitary.

The White-Nosed Coatimundi is one of 4 Coatimundi species, and the one we find here in Belize. Coatimundi, also known as coati and locally as quash, are members of the same family as raccoons and kinkajous.

Adults measure 41 to 67 cm from head to the base of the tail, which will add 30 to 60 cm to their length. Coatis are about 30 cm tall at the shoulder, and weigh between 3 and 8 kg, about the size of a large housecat. Males can become almost twice as large as females and have large, sharp canine teeth.

They are intelligent small bears with strong limbs to climb and dig.

Coatis walk on the soles of their feet, e.g. like the Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis), but contrary to their much bigger relatives, coatis are able to descend trees headfirst thanks to a double-jointed, flexible ankle. They prefer to sleep or rest in elevated places and niches, e.g. the rainforest canopy, in crudely-built sleeping nests.

In the wild, coatis live for about 7 to 8 years, while in captivity they can live for up to 15 years.

Coatimundi females and young males up to 2 years of age are gregarious and travel trough their territories in noisy, loosely-organized bands made up of 4 to 25 individuals, foraging with their offspring on the ground or in the forest's canopy. Males over 2 years become solitary due to behavioural disposition and collective aggression from the females, and will join the female groups only during the breeding season.

When provoked or for defence, coatis are fierce fighters: their strong jaws, sharp canine teeth and fast scratching paws, along with a tough hide, sturdily attached to the underlying muscles, make it very difficult for the predator (e.g. dogs, jaguars) to seize the small mammal.

The coati communicates its intentions or mood with chirping, snorting or grunting sounds. Different chirping sounds are used to express joy during social grooming, appeasement after fights or to convey irritation or anger. Snorting while digging, along with an erect tail, states territorial or food claims during foraging.

Coatis additionally use special postures or moves to convey simple messages, e.g. hiding the nose between the front paws as a sign for submission or lowering the head, baring teeth plus short attack jumps to signal an aggressive disposition.

Individuals recognize other coatis by their looks, voices and smells, the individual smell is intensified by special musk-glands on their necks and bellies.

Coatimundis are not domesticated animals and are therefore not recommended as house pets. This small bear is wild, very difficult to control or train and generally behaves radically different from a pet dog.

Coatis are small, curious and intelligent mammals, which are considered interesting, fun and endearing by their owners most of the time. However, coatimundis are prone to mischief and can be very destructive in a household or garden without constant supervision.
Photos by Barnacle Bill of Barnacle Bill's Beach Bungalows         Click here to comment on this picture .

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