A Coatimundi In Search of Dinner
Coatimundi Climbing Rock In Tucson Arizona's Colossal Cave Mountain Park
Coatimundis - a Raccoon like Animal found in Southwestern United States
Coatis, also called coatimundis, are members of the raccoon family. Coatis are found in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona as well as in Central and South America. The name coatimundis appears to have come from one of the aboriginal languages in South America.
Like their raccoon cousins, coatis sport long bushy tails with rings similar to raccoon tails. However Coatis lack the mask of black hair that raccoons have around their eyes.
Another trait shared with raccoons is that coatis are double jointed and can rotate their ankles more than 180l degrees. Their long tail is non-prehensile meaning it cannot be used to wrap around an object like a tree branch thereby allowing the coati to suspend themselves upside down from a tree branch.
Coati Leaving Visitor Center Area and Heading Toward Desert Below
Please Don’t Feed the Animals
For the past three generations or more, Americans have been lectured by park rangers, conservationists, posters and other media warning them not to feed the wild animals found in our parks and wilderness areas.
The purpose of the warnings is two fold. First, the animals are wild and in their eagerness to get free food may end up biting (or worse) the proverbial hands that are trying to feed them. Second, the animals may come to rely on and possibly come to prefer the taste of these handouts causing them to forget how hunt for their food in the wild.
Coatimundi Making Sure No One Takes His Lunch
Nobody Has Told the Animals to Stop Soliciting and Eating Human Food
Meanwhile wild animals continue to simply ignore the Don’t Feed the Animals exhortations from park rangers and others to stick to their traditional food sources just as the fictional Yogi Bear (star of the popular 1960s Hanna-Barbera cartoon series The Yogi Bear Show) continued to steal the picnic baskets of visitors in the fictional Jellystone National Park despite the best efforts of Ranger Smith to get him to stop.
While fewer people are deliberately handing out food to animals, many are careless when it comes to leaving uneaten food on a picnic table or carelessly leaving their food within easy reach of wild critters.
Then there are trash receptacles into which tons of discarded food is deposited along with other trash. There are some sophisticated ones that animals, and humans who don’t take time to read the directions, are unable to open. However, there are still many which don’t take a rocket scientist, or even a regular human, to figure out how to open them.
Coatimundi Hoping to Find a Tourist Giving Out Treats
A Coatimundi In Search of a Free Lunch
I recently ran into an enterprising coatimundi as he was searching for food in the parking lot of Colossal Cave Mountain Park southeast of Tucson, Arizona. I say he because male coatimundi tend to be loners while the females of the species are found in packs numbering 5 to 20 or so females and young. Males join the packs during the breeding season but are kicked out before the young are born as the males tend to eat the young.
This Coati seemed to be moving with a destination in mind and that destination turned out to be a grey, plastic trash can sitting at the edge of the parking lot.
Reaching the trash can he sniffed around the base and then proceeded to climb up the can and work his way around to the flap at the entrance. Pushing the flap in with his nose and turning his back feet completely around so that he could grasp the outer edge of the trash can with his rear claws and toes he went head first into the can hanging on by his rear toes.
Coati Heading Across Parking Lot Toward Trashcan
As he sifted through the trash inside with his nose and head he used his long tail to keep his balance just like a tightrope walker uses his hands and arms to balance while walking on the tightrope.
The coati resurfaced three or four times holding a clump of discarded food wrappers in his mouth. Turning around on the edge of the trash can he leaned over, opened his mouth and dropped the papers on the ground before returning to his search for food in the trash can.
After about four dives he returned with a paper with what looked like a partially eaten burrito or chimichanga wrapped inside it. Hanging on to his new found dinner he climbed back down to the ground where he found a good spot a few feet away where he sat down and began removing the paper and tortilla which were covering the meat he sought.
Coatimundi Climbing Up the Trashcan
Coati Not Concerned With My Presence
This coati didn’t seem to be too concerned about my presence although he did keep an eye on me while I stayed back about 10 feet and didn’t make any fast or threatening moves toward him.
I suspect that he was more concerned about me taking his food than threatening him with harm. Given our location in a parking lot next to the visitor center he was probably used to humans being present.
Hanging On With His Rear Claws and Balancing With His Tail the Coati Dives Head First into the Trashcan
Creatures in the Wild are Like Our Children When it Comes to Making Food Choices
Other than being cooked and seasoned the contents of the chimichanga were not that different than his regular diet. Coatimundi are omnivores whose foods tend to be fruits, ground insects (such as spiders, ants, termites, centipedes, etc), scorpions, lizards, small rodents, bird eggs and, occasionally, a slow moving bird.
From the point of view of the coatimundi the partially eaten chimichanga not only provided a greater quantity of food with less time and effort than hunting in the wild, the meat and other ingredients mixed with it were the same type of food he hunted in the wild.
Like our children, the coatimundi and other wildlife will choose short term satisfaction and ignore potential long term consequences.
Given this fact, park rangers and other wildlife managers should start encouraging people to look upon wildlife as children who will always choose short term satisfaction rather than consider their long term welfare.
When Visiting the Great Outdoors Manage Your Trash Wisely
When it comes to disposing of trash in the wild we should limit what we deposit in regular trash cans to non-edible items and wait until we find an animal proof unit to dispose of edible trash (actually there was a large animal proof waste container about 300 feet away from the plastic trash container the coati climbed into).
Better still save both money and calories by buying only the food you can completely consume when touring the great outdoors.
Coatimundi Raiding a Trashcan
© 2019 Chuck Nugent