What is a White-Nosed Coati?

The white-nosed coati (Nasua narica), also known as the coatimundi, is a species of mammal found in the southern United States, Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. They are small, brown-furred animals related to raccoons, with a long, striped tail and a pointed white-tipped muzzle that gives the species its name. 

White-nosed coati at the Belize Zoo
Photograph by Andy Coleman at the Belize Zoo

Coatis reach about 18 to 26 inches (46 to 66 cm) in length, with their tails stretching an additional two feet (61 cm). Their tails are semi-prehensile and help coatis balance when climbing trees; on the ground, they are often held straight upright. Like their raccoon relatives, coatis are omnivores, meaning that they eat both vegetation and meat. A coati’s diet includes fruits, lizards, insects, and even small rodents; they often forage for food along the ground, digging through plants and fallen leaves with their noses and claws. 

Coatis are found in a variety of habitats throughout their range, from rainforests in Central America to the much drier areas of northern Mexico and the southern United States. They are social animals, with some bands surpassing 30 individuals. The bands are made up of related females and their young; males, who are mostly solitary, briefly join the bands during breeding season. Coatis are born in litters of up to six or seven young, and remain with the group until reaching adulthood. 

White-Nosed Coatis in Belize

An adult white-nosed coati (left) with five young (right). This image was captured by one of our trail cameras in Belize.
Credit: Inspire EdVentures

Coatis are a common sight in Belize! Unlike raccoons and many other members of the raccoon family, coatis are diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day. They can be found anywhere from deep rainforest to more open grasslands. 

Living in a rainforest is not always easy. Predators of coatis include everything from snakes and foxes to large cats such as ocelots, pumas, and jaguars. Coatis can defend themselves using their sharp claws or attempt to escape by climbing a tree, but their most useful defense is their large social group. Coati bands forage together, use alarm calls to warn each other of predators, and have even been known to attack predators as a group to drive them away. 

A white-nosed coati captured by our trail cameras. Credit: Inspire EdVentures
Coatis are a common sight on our trail cameras, but we often only see them by their tails. Credit: Inspire EdVentures

White-nosed coatis are listed as Least Concern throughout their range, though like many other rainforest animals, their populations are decreasing due to habitat loss and hunting. Additionally, due to their small size, coatis are a target for the exotic pet trade. Keeping coatis or other wild animals as pets is illegal in Belize, and for good reason; coatis need adequate habitat and large social bands, and wild, non-domesticated animals can be dangerous to both themselves and their owners. In fact, many residents of the Belize Zoo, from spider monkeys to tapirs, are rescued from the illegal pet trade. 

To learn more about coatis and Belize’s wildlife, visit the Belize Zoo with us at Belize Zoo Live!

For More Information:

http://belizezoo.org/mammals/coatimundi.html 

https://nhpbs.org/natureworks/coati.htm

https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/white-nosed-coati

https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/41683/45216060

  • Hass, C.C., Valenzuela, D. Anti-predator benefits of group living in white-nosed coatis (Nasua narica). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 51, 570–578 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-002-0463-5
  • Matthew E. Gompper, Sociality and asociality in white-nosed coatis (Nasua narica): foraging costs and benefits, Behavioral Ecology, Volume 7, Issue 3, Fall 1996, Pages 254–263, https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/7.3.254
  • MATTHEW E. GOMPPER, JOHN L. GITTLEMAN, ROBERT K. WAYNE, Genetic relatedness, coalitions and social behaviour of white-nosed coatis, Nasua narica, Animal Behaviour, Volume 53, Issue 4, 1997, Pages 781-797, ISSN 0003-3472, https://doi.org/10.1006/anbe.1996.0344 

article by Kayla Windelspecht. : Kayla is a biologist and science writer specializing in ecology and conservation. She is a graduate from North Carolina State University and project manager for Inspire EdVentures since 2020.

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