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What Is A Coati?

What is a coati

What Does A Mexican Racoon (Coatimundi) Look Like?

what does a coati look likeUntil I got to Mexico, I had no idea what this thing was, but then I kept seeing more and more of them.  

Someone told me it was called a “coatimundi”, or “coati”, or “tejon” in Spanish.

I was just going around calling it that “Mexican racoon thing”.  🙂 They are also known as cholugo, or moncún, or sometimes “hog-nosed coon”.

Every year we’re down in Mexico visiting from Canada, and this map shows roughly where we stay in a typical Mexican town of bout 15000 people called Bucerias.  It isn’t marked on the map below, but it is approximately where the label says, “Surf Mexico”.  You can see the river flowing into the bay.  That is the swampy area where there also happens to be many giant hotels.  Don’t get me wrong. The beach is beautiful and there are lots of tourists in giant magnificent hotels along the shoreline.  It is the perfect environment for the coatimundi or Mexican racoon.  This is all next to the seventh largest bay in the world – Bahia de Banderas.

where do coati live

The coatimundi inhabit the densely marshy delta near the lush and very expensive hotel complexes I mentioned, in an area which is basically a crossroads between the swamp and urban development. 

These cute, long-tailed coatis, or Mexican tejon, have been conditioned in this area to wait each morning for the tourists to come out of their hotels with food scraps and feed them.

Here are 4 more interesting facts about this cousin of the racoon that I learned in my travels …

  1. Coatis often hold their tails erect so as to keep troops of coatis together in tall vegetation.
  2. These intelligent “hog-nose” raccoons have a very flexible snout.
  3. Coatis are omnivores and their diet consists mainly of ground litter invertebrates, such as tarantula, and fruit. They also eat small vertebrate prey, such as lizards, rodents, small birds, birds’ eggs, and crocodile eggs.
  4. They can be kept as pets and it is possible to litter train them. Keep in mind that they are “wild” unlike the dog and cats in our houses today.

Here’s another feeding video.. these coatis are always hungry!  My son was dating a girl who was from Turkey and she came to our house to visit, and she had the same reaction to seeing squirrels.  She was amazed every time she saw a squirrel, because I guess there are no squirrels in Turkey, but if you’re from Canada, you know what we think of squirrels – no big deal.

Now that I am a semi-expert from spending so much time with these cute little Mexican coatis, I wanted to share a few more tales about these wily little guys!

coati tejon

Every morning, my wife and I walked on the street off the beach for about 5 km one way. There was the beach, the hotels, the road, and the scrub swamp, then the coastal highway.

The friendly (and slightly demanding) coatimundi hang out in the scrub swamp waiting for gringos like us, to drop garbage or maybe feed them grapes or cheerios thinking they are a Mexican pet tejon. They will take the food out of your hand exposing their long biting teeth, which are similar to dogs’ teeth or so I’ve read.

what does a coati look likeTourists have to be very careful because they are wild animals and very unpredictable.

As I said, the local Mexican people ignore them just like we would ignore a racoon – they are considered pests.

Mexico isn’t the only place you find coatis.  I have read that there are different kinds and they live in South America as well.  Mainly, you’ll find them living in the tropics.  

They live in loose knit groups of about 20, females and juveniles.  The males, after two years, are on their own returning only to mate.  They are omnivorous i.e. tarantulas, fruit, small vertebrates.  

mexican animal tejon coati

Dogs and jaguars are their enemies, but coatis can handle themselves using sharp canine teeth and long strong claws. They sleep in trees in a messy nest.  These aggressive animals have a long nose which provides them with a great sense of smell.  They live around 7 years in the wild. 

Coatis are members of the raccoon family.  They can rotate their nose 60 degrees and  paws 180 degrees, so they can come down the tree head first.  My pet cat at home in Canada can climb trees but can’t get down.  She needs to take lessons from coatimundi.

raccoon or coatimundicoatimundi Mexico

The coatimundi is related to the raccoon of North America.  The coati’s nose is longer and its colouring is slightly different.  Coatis do eat similar things such as insects, fruit, birds and roots.  They live in the trees and scrub lands, but aren’t too fussy about where they call home, just like the raccoon.  Both of these creatures have sharp teeth and claws and are very agile.  They can take things apart, such as your garbage container, if they are hungry enough.  Coatimundi live from Mexico to Peru, and prefer warm weather.  If you are walking along some path next to the mangrove swamps on the west coast of Mexico near Puerto Vallarta, keep you eyes peeled for the coatis.  They are watching you. 

coatimundi or raccoon

You won’t see any raccoons in Mexico.  Coatis travel in groups without the males, who only come around to mate.  Otherwise the boys are loners.  Raccoons and coatimundis are very clever and adapt well to human behaviour, so be careful.  They will come right up to you and take the food from your hand, but keep in mind that they are wild and dangerous.  I know they are cute.  Some people say they remind them of monkeys and dogs, and even bears.  They have shorter front legs than back, so they walk along with a bear’s gait.  They also walk on their padded heals like humans do.  It is common for Mexicans to have coatis as pets.  Some people in Canada and the U.S. have tried to domesticate raccoons also.

Ok, one last video of the coatis eating (their favorite thing to do)…  Keep in mind that they are wild animals and can be dangerous.  The only reason they appear friendly is because people have food.

Coatimundi as Pets

While many people might try to domesticate raccoons, squirrels or monkeys, the coati is another animal that has some cute characteristics that make people want to keep them as pets. They’re curious, agile, and friendly, especially if you have food. They’re adorable as they snatch your food and run away like little scamps, so their endearing qualities make them a sought-after pet.

If you want to keep a coati as a pet, you’ll have to find one that’s been raised as a pet. Ones that have been in the wild are not tamed, and can be extremely unpredictable. Those who have been raised in cages, bottle fed by humans, and learned to co-exist with them are easier to keep in the home with other pets like dogs.

coati as pets

Petting a Coatimundi

In some areas like Mexico and even Belize, coatis are not afraid to scamper up to you and demand food. It’s vital that you’re careful because they have very sharp teeth. While they’re mostly well-behaved, there are times when petting a coatimundi can be quite dangerous. Never put your fingers close to the animal’s mouth as you’re feeding it.

If you have a particularly friendly coati, you can pet it like you would a dog or cat. They love to be scratched on the head and to have their back rubbed. As you can see from this video, they’re needy when they’re used to human attention.

Adopt a Coatimundi

It’s not really a great idea to adopt a coatimundi from the wild. It would be like bringing a wild raccoon or squirrel into your home. They’re not used to being caged or confined in any way, so they’ll try to get away, which can result in you or the animal being injured.

If you’re intent on keeping a coati in your life, you can adopt a coatimundi from the zoo. Zooville has coatimundis that you can adopt. Essentially, you’d be donating money to the care of the coatis in the zoo. It provides them with toys, food, and loving care while they’re at the zoo.

coati mexican tejon

Coatimundi Behavior

Coatis travel in female packs of up to 25 animals. The female packs include the baby coatis until they’re at least 2 years old. Once they hit that milestone age, the males will be forced out of the group by the females. They’ll only return when it’s time for breeding.

The coatimundi has certain noises and postures that convey their mood. They uses snorting, grunting or chirping noises as indications of a variety of moods depending on their current activity. They might snort while digging to claim the food found. If they hide their nose between the front paws, it’s a sign of submission while lowering the head and baring their teeth is aggressive. 

Coatimundi Care

Before bringing a coati into your home, you need to be sure it’s allowed in your area. While many people in Mexico or South America have coatis as pets, they’re not allowed in many areas in North America. You’ll have to research whether it’s possible to have this cute, little guy in your home as a pet.

If you’ve checked and are allowed to keep a coati in your home, you’ll want to ensure you are able to care for it properly. You should have the name of an exotic veterinarian in case of any issues. While they don’t have coati shots, dog or cat shots might be warranted.

Coatis are kept in cages or allowed to roam free in the home depending on how trained they are and whether they cause issues with other animals in the home. If you use a cage for your coati, it’s vital that the cage is at least 6 feet by 6 feet. It’s always a good idea to use a cage for the animal when you’re not home since they can be quite destructive when left on their own. In some cases, the cage might have to be modified since coatis are smart enough to unlatch their cage.

Coatis are curious animals who need to be constantly stimulated. Provide them with dog toys when they’re little, but they might need children’s toys as they grow and mature.

chatter the coati

Coatimundi Diet in Captivity

The nose of the coati allows them to dig in the dirt and under rocks for insects and small mammals. They will also eat plants, fruits, and berries. In captivity, they can be fed dog food, which has all the vitamins and minerals that they need to remain healthy, but you can also add fresh fruits, vegetables, and beef or eggs for extra protein.

Coatimundi Enemies

The coati has quite a few enemies in the wild including coyotes, boa constrictors, jaguars, foxes, and ocelots. Surprisingly, large eagles like the harpy eagle and the hawk eagle will hunt them for food. The coatimundi has sharp teeth much like a dog to protect themselves from predators.