Coatis are found in Latin America, from Northern Mexico to South America, however, in the last century coatis have roamed into the United States and now occupy parts of Arizona.
Coatis primarily live in forested areas including deciduous, evergreen, rain forest, cloud forest, dry scrub forest habitats, and mountains. Due to human influence, coatis prefer secondary forests and forest edges. They are found up to 8,000 feet in elevation.
Primarily omnivorous, coatis usually forage for fruits and invertebrates. Coatis like to eat palms, eggs, larval beetles, scorpions, centipedes, spiders, ants, termites, lizards, small mammals, rodents, and carrion (dead animal) when it is available.
Coatis usually weigh between 7 and 13 pounds with an average weight of about 10 pounds. On average coatis are about 41 inches long but can range in length from 28 to 53 inches. Males are generally larger than females.
The long, black to brown tails of coatis with yellow rings are used for balance. Coatis have strong claws and forelimbs to climb and dig out food from under rotted logs. They can reverse the joints of the anklebone to descend trees headfirst.
Typically, one male coati is accepted into a band of females and juveniles near the beginning of the breeding season. The mating system is polygynous, with a single male mating with the females in the band.
Breeding season for coatis varies with location, and corresponds with the maximum availability of fruit. Breeding occurs between January and March in some locations, and between October and February in others. Males will join the loosely organized bands of females to mate. After mating, males leave the bands for a mostly solitary existence, and the females disperse and build tree nests for the remainder of gestation and birth. Females give birth to litters of 3 to 7 young 74 to 77 days after mating. Most births occur between April and June. Five to six weeks after birth, the females and their young will rejoin the band. Young are altricial and are therefore dependent on their mother for care and survival. By about 3 weeks of age, coatis are able to walk and at 4 months they can eat solid food. Females become sexually mature at 2 years of age, and males mature sexually around three years of age.
In the wild coats usually live to be about 7 or 8 years old. The longest known lifespan for a coati in captivity was just short of 18 years.
Male coatis are normally philopatric (the tendency of an individual to return to or stay in its home area) whereas the females disperse. Unrelated females and their young form bands with up to 30 individuals. Coatis are excellent climbers and swim well. They are diurnal and spend most of the day foraging for food. Although coatis are mostly terrestrial, they do sleep, mate, and give birth in trees. When disturbed, they descend from the tree and escape on the ground. Coatis have been known to enter human areas to rummage through garbage.
Coatis have a wide variety of predators, particularily large cats including jaguars, pumas, ocelots, and jaguarundis, but large birds of prey and boa constrictors have been known to prey on coatis as well.
Coatis help to control pest populations of insects and other invertebrates. They provide food to predators, and are likely important in dispersing some seeds.
They are protected under CITES Appendix III in Uruguay, but are not classified as threatened in the wild.
Humans cause detrimental effects from hunting and deforestation for mining, road building, petroleum, and timber extraction.
Experiments on captive coatis indicate cognitive skills of shape differentiation and shape recognition. Initially, confusion over solitary males led to designation of a separate species. Other common names are the ring-tailed coati, the brown-nosed coati, the southern coati, and the South American coati. Coatis are also referred to in some texts as coatimundis. The name coati or coatimundi is Tupian Indian in origin. The prefix “coati” means “belt”, and “Tim” means “nose” referring to the way the coatis tuck their noses under their bellies to sleep. The name Nasua is Latin for “nose”, possibly for the same reason.
(Marwell Zoological Park, 1996; Emmons, 1997; Gompper, 1998)
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Braddy, S. 2003. “Nasua nasua” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 10, 2006 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Nasua_nasua.html.
Nowak, R.M. 1999. Walker’s Mammals of the World. Baltimore and London, Johns Hopkins University Press.