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Wild Thing: Coati Quest

The elusive coatimundi may have headed south in search of better habitat.

By Sheryl Smith-Rodgers

Wanted: information on the whereabouts of white-nosed coatis (Nasua narica) in extreme South Texas northwest to the Big Bend.

"If we could confirm any sightings from landowners, then we could conduct a study on them," says John Young, TPWD mammalogist. "A few years ago, we had three or four sightings near the Pecos River, but we couldn't confirm those."

Listed as a threatened species in Texas, white-nosed coatis – also called coati-mundis – belong to the family Procyonidae, a group of small carnivores that includes raccoons and ringtails. They occur largely in woodlands and canyons found in Mexico and Central America but have ranged northward as far as southern Texas.

Like their relatives, coatis have long, banded tails. When walking around, they hold their tails up. In trees, they're used to maintain balance. Heavy foreclaws and a slender, upturned snout enable coatis to grub for insects and other arthropods. They also dine on lizards, rodents, nuts, fruits and prickly pear.

Diurnal by nature, coatis live cooperatively together in "troops" that consist of adult females and their young. Males are solitary. In the spring, a troop allows one male to join but only long enough to mate. Pregnant females leave to give birth, then later return to the troop with their litter of up to six young. By the age of 2, young males turn solitary.

Biologists speculate that development and lack of suitable habitat keep coatis south of the border. "Texas has always been on the very northern edge of their distribution, and numbers were likely never very high," Young says.

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