Wondrous Wildlife
By Vern and Lori Gieger
Ring Tailed Rascals

     The coatimundi (pronounced ko WAH ti MUN dee) also called the coati, or sometimes “the hog nosed coon. Or, as we know them, “Tejons.” These are adorable little mammals are found from the southern United States to Peru. They typically have a grayish brown body, but it can vary from yellowish brown or reddish brown to black. With a very long, faintly banded tail, long pointed snout with white toward the tip and around the eyes, small ears, and dark feet it is unmistakable and easy to recognize. They are about two feet long and weigh in between 12 and 17 pounds.
     Coatimundis are diurnal, (active both day and night) spending most of the day foraging for food. They are omnivorous, eating just about anything they can get their paws on. Coatis are not particular. They possess an extraordinary sense of smell to seek out food. Once dinner is found, they really get serious, using their long mobile snout, large claws and powerful “hands.” Dinner is usually obtained very quickly. Included on their daily menu are beetles, scorpions, cockroaches, earthworms, lizards and mice, as well as seasonal fruits and nuts. (One must have dessert!)
     The coati is a forest dweller and an agile tree climber. Spending much of their time in the trees, they are frequently spotted taking a “siesta” in the safety of branches during the heat of the day. They are often seen eating while hanging upside down from a tree branch. While they do not have a prehensile tail, the ankles of a coati are double jointed and extremely flexible, which also enables them to descend trees headfirst.
     Coatis are also the only truly social members of the raccoon family. Females and young coatis under two years of age band together and travel in troupes. They are gregarious and noisy as they travel about in groups of 6 to 24, holding their tails almost erect and chattering. Adult males join the groups only during the breeding season. After the male mates with each female, he is expelled from the group and resumes his life of loneliness. Females have a den for the birth of their young, returning to the group when the cubs are 5-6 weeks old. The male then also returns, but just long enough to identify his offspring so he will not prey upon them later in life. The young will stay with their mother in the group for about two more years. After that, they will be on their own. The females will join another band or stay with the original group. The males will leave for good.
     Another fascinating aspect: the raccoon family, the coatimundi, raccoon, ringtail cat, and kinkajou, possess dexterity almost human, also combine special characteristics of other animals. Using their busy tails for balance, their paws for clever tools, they are cat-like, bear-like, fox- like and even-monkey like all at once, each very different, highly intelligent and amusingly adapted animals.
     I suspect that most of us would like to get to know wild animals better. The more we know them, the more we see how different they are, different from each other, and different from our first notions about them.