The latest article in our Island Wildlife series examines Cozumel's coatis.
These cute looking fellows are close relatives of the White-Nosed Coati (Nasua narica) that lives nearby on the mainland.
Similar to some other local mammals, isolation on the island has led them to evolve into a distinct breed (Nasua nelsoni) that is only found in Cozumel.
Cozumel Island Coati.
Most experts now consider the Cozumel coatis to be a subspecies of the White-Nosed Coati, but many have also categorized it as a species in its own right.
The endemic island coati is now hard to find, but sightings have been reported recently at San Gervasio Mayan ruins and near the Iberostar hotel.
Different types of coatis are found across North and South America and, among other names, they are also known as pizote, tejón or coatimundi. All belong to the the biological group Procyonidae, the same family of mammals as raccoons.
Coati foraging in Cozumel.
Coatis vary in markings and are similar to raccoons but with longer snouts, which are thought to help them forage for food.
The White-Nosed Coatis on the mainland average 9-15 lbs (4-7kg) in weight and have a length of 45 inches (114cm), half of which is their tail. Their Cozumel cousins are smaller, lighter and have shorter hair.
Long tails help coatis climb trees and, as omnivores, they survive on small vertebrates, insects, fruit and eggs.
Similar to raccoons, they adapt quickly to human presence, are intelligent and have been known to raid trashcans. They are also under threat from the same predators on the island: boas, large birds and feral dogs.
Smaller than their mainland cousins.
Coatis are daytime creatures, usually choosing a favorite tree to sleep in at night and coming down in the morning to look for food.
Adult males live alone, but the females and young live in groups. They use different calls to communicate with each other and like to use their claws and teeth for communal grooming. Like meerkats, the smallest coatis are often left with "baby-sitters" while the parents go to find food.
The island coatis were plentiful before European settlement of Mexico and used to be used as food or kept as pets by the Mayans. They were still quite common up until about 20 years ago, but since then have declined rapidly in number. Today it is rare to see this wonderful creature in the wild on Cozumel.
Read more about island wildlife by renowned Cozumel author, Ric Hajovsky, in his website's Cozumel natural history section.
Look for coatis and other wildlife on our Lagoon Nature and Birdwatching Tour.
Island Wildlife: Blue Land Crabs.
Island Wildlife: Pygmy Raccoons.
Island Wildlife: Crocodiles.
Island Wildlife: Iguanas.
Lagoon Nature and Birdwatching Tour.
Northern Lagoons Photo Album on Facebook.