Monday, February 20, 2017
Animals in their Habitat: Coatimundis in Sycamore Canyon
A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to watch a single Coati foraging under the bird feeders of Madera Canyon Lodge. That reminded me of a quite dreamlike experience from my very early days in Arizona. I was camping in Chiricahua National Monument with a group of friends. I woke up early and peaked out of my tent.. The young bright white sycamore trees were too thin to block the rays of the raising sun. While I was drowsily squinting, the trunks seemed to sway and move. But as soon as my eyes adjusted, I recognized that the moving things were actually the straight-upright tails of a gang of coatimundis. They hung around for a while, chattering and sniffing noisily under rocks and branches that they seemed to move with their little hands.
White-nosed Coatis, Nasua narica, are related to Racoons. Our Arizona coatis are the northernmost ambassadors of a genus that is widespread in central and south America. They are day-active omnivores with a taste for insects, lizards, roots, fruits, nuts and eggs. They are very fond of fruit, especially manzanita berries. Normally, they weigh from 10 to 25 pounds, but the ones at Madera Canyon look like they are quite a bit heavier.
Coatis mate in early spring. A litter of 4 to 6 young is born after a gestation period of about 11 weeks, usually in a den in a wooded canyon. Coatis usually stick together in groups of one half to two dozens, but lately a group of 40 was observed in Ramsey Canyon in the Huachucas. Although they seem to like woodland and creeks, they also sometimes appear in the backyards of Oro Valley and Tucson.