What Is A Coatimundi?

Three infant coatimundis lying on a rock in sunshine, Belize.

Experienced wildlife handler and author, Alan Graham, explains where these mysterious mammals come from and what they get up to in the wild. This website's favicon image

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last updated: Jan, 2023

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What exactly is a coatimundi? Coatimundis are an agile bunch of small (dog-size) mammals that live in loose packs (bands) from South America all the way up to the southern states of the USA. They are diurnal but secretive, preferring the seclusion of forest and woodland to open plains, where they dig in the ground for bugs with their long claws and climb trees for fruit. For this reason these mysterious creatures are rarely seen and super difficult to study.

There are three sub-species in the coatimundi family tree (Nasua) that all look pretty much the same: the white-nosed coati living in Central America; the mountain coati ranging in the northern Andes Mountains; and the southern coati that lives in most of the rest of South America except Argentina and Chile. Coatis are mammals, relatives of the raccoon, with a long ringed tail akin to some lemurs and a protruding nose with an extraordinarily acute sense of smell.

A young male coatimundi standing with tail high, Belize.

What do coatimundis look like? Generally, coatimundis have course, short, dark brown hair over most of their bodies, except their rump and tail which is longer. Cute, round cotton balls for ears are deceptively keen. Shoulders and forelimbs are washed with gray hairs above black socks and their bellies are often a creamy, pale yellow. In the wild coats can be quite variable ranging from a light orange to almost black in some big males.

The distinctive chevron between the eyes and those white eyebrows are the species' trademarks - besides making them look adorably cute!

Working in conjunction with the Belize Forestry Department, a wildlife sanctuary was created by Alan Graham in 2008 for rehabilitation and soft release of injured or illegally caged wildlife, coatimundis becoming the predominant species passing through. Today, a band of 80 roams over 300 acres in his reserve, breeding wild and free.

Facts About Coatimundis:

Alan is an expert on the secretive lives of these cute animals, studying their social structure, their habits and their range, unimpeded. Check out the Coati Pet Care Guide below for more facts, or download free the author's new book "Coati Kingdom" here on this site.

** Coati Pet Care Guide **

close-up of coati face in tree

Free Online Resource
Everything you need to know
about looking after these adorable, exotic creatures

Coatimundi or Coati - Your Choice

Adult Males live solitary lives away from the band and were given the suffix "mundi" by early explorers who thought they were a different species altogether. Coati is the proper name for both genders of all subspecies, babies (kittens) included.
Have fun with all the local names from around The Americas as well: Chulo; Pisote; Quash; Coui; Tejon; Ring-tail and Hog-nosed Raccoon.

Baby Coatimundi Eating a Mango

Fun Facts about Coatimundis

Coatimundis eat a lot so they need to keep moving over large areas. The band will forage in leaf litter or dig in the ground for bugs, beetles and worms. Once they have eaten everything available in one area, they move on. These cute animals like woodland and forests because there is plenty to eat and they feel safe among trees, where they can run and climb quickly in case of danger. Open fields are scary places for coatimundis.

Coatimundis are small, agile creatures about the size of a small dog. They have very long claws which they use for digging and climbing, and to defend themselves against predators. Their claws are similar to those of the wolverine, not something you want to face if a coatimundi gets angry. They don't wander about aimlessly, the adult females lead the band. They have a favourite range of about one square kilometer where they follow common trails and learn where good hunting grounds are or trees that bear fruit.

These cute animals don't just eat bugs. Coatimundis are omnivores, that is, they eat a variety of food. They love fruit, they will eat nuts and seeds, and steal eggs out of bird nests. At midday they will usually take a nap high up in trees. And that's where they sleep at night, too, or in caves on mountainsides if they find one. The mothers will build nests when it is time to give birth, usually four at a time and normally only once a year, in June.

A coatimundi mother eats while a baby stands under her hind legs.

Full Picture Gallery here --->

Mating season is late winter-early spring, Jan-Feb, unless a female loses her litter of kittens in which case she may become receptive again during the summer months. Babies are carried for 100 days, after which they are born in a simple nest and kept isolated from everyone for six weeks by the mother. Her infant coatis are then introduced to the band when they are capable of running and climbing independently.

Coatimundis are not an endangered species but they are being threatened by deforestation and human encroachment leading to hunting for their meat, disease - domestic dogs being a very real danger for little coatis with short legs. We don't often see them in the wild anymore because they have very good ears and run away at the slightest sound, although occasionally bands can be seen crossing a road in a long procession to raid farmers crops. Left alone, coatimundis will live harmoniously with humans as they tend to like the same foods and scavenge around human habitation like tourist resorts and in national parks where hunting is forbidden.

Photo of the author with young Coatimundi in his arms.

Coatimundis are social animals that crave companionship, for this reason they are considered wonderful pets, especially the vulnerable and ever so cute babies. Unfortunately, if not well cared for, as they get older an adult coati may become mentally unbalanced and dangerous. They are, after all, not a domesticated species and still have all their wild tendencies.

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