Coati characteristics, habitat, feeding, behavior

Robert Johnston

Coati It is the common name given to any of the species that make up the Nasuella and Nasua genera, both members of the Procyonidae family. Thus, the representatives of these clades are the Andean coati (Nasuella olivacea), the ring-tailed coati (Nasua nasua) and the white-nosed coati (Nasua narica).

One distinguishing feature of this New World mammal is its long tail. This is not prehensile and has a dense coat, marked with rings in dark or lighter color, depending on the species..

Coati. Source: Andrew Magill [CC BY (]

This animal exhibits diurnal behaviors. Thus, they are active during the day and rest at night. To sleep, prefers high places, such as the canopy of trees, where it builds the nest.

The coati climbs the trunks with great ease, thanks to its strong limbs, its powerful claws and its tail, which balances the movements. When he descends, he can do it upside down. It does this because your ankles have the ability to rotate up to 180 °..

Regarding its distribution, it extends from the southwestern United States to the northern part of Argentina and Uruguay. In these regions it inhabits various ecosystems, such as humid forests, dry scrub, the Andean mountain range and tropical forests..

Article index

  • 1 General characteristics
    • 1.1 Tail
    • 1.2 Extremities
    • 1.3 Head
    • 1.4 Size
    • 1.5 Coloring
  • 2 Communication
    • 2.1 Body positions
  • 3 Conservation status
    • 3.1 Threats
    • 3.2 Habitat degradation
    • 3.3 Actions
  • 4 Habitat and distribution
    • 4.1 - Distribution
    • 4.2 - Habitat
    • 4.3 Species
  • 5 Taxonomy and subspecies
    • 5.1 - Taxonomy
    • 5.2 - Genus: Nasua
    • 5.3 - Genus: Nasuella
  • 6 Food
    • 6.1 Diet modification
    • 6.2 Eating methods
  • 7 Playback
    • 7.1 Courtship and copulation
    • 7.2 Gestation and upbringing
  • 8 Behavior
    • 8.1 Social group
  • 9 References 

General characteristics


One of the distinguishing characteristics in all coatis is their tail. This is long, thick and not prehensile. As for the color, it has a brown tone, which stands out for the horizontal bands it has. These can be well defined, as is the case in their relatives raccoons, or they could be faint markings..

Often the coati holds its tail upright. In this way, it serves as a signal, guiding and orienting the herd to stay together. In addition, the tail helps to maintain balance, while walking and when descending from trees.


The coati walks with the sole of its legs, making it a plantigrade animal. It has sharp claws, but these are not retractable. As for his limbs, they are strong, and he uses them for digging and climbing..

The species of both genera, Nasuella and Nasua, have double ankle joints, so they can rotate more than 180 °. Thanks to this morphological peculiarity, these mammals can descend from the trees with their heads down..


This animal has a long, pointed snout. His nose is slightly curved up. In addition, it is flexible, being able to rotate it in any direction up to 60 °. This olfactory organ is used to rub parts of your body and to push objects.

In relation to the head, it is thin and its ears are small. The coati has 38 to 40 teeth, with thin, long and sharp canines.


In this group of procyonids, females are smaller than males. In general, the length of the body varies between 33 and 120 centimeters, including the tail. In terms of weight, it ranges from 3.17 to 9 kilos.

However, there are variations between species. Thus, the adult of the Nasua nasua it measures from 41 to 67 centimeters, without taking into account the tail. The male reaches a weight of 4.5 to 6 kilograms, while the female has a body mass of 3.5 to 4.5 kilograms.

In relation to Nasua narica, it is the largest of the three coati species. Its length varies between 60 to 70 centimeters, with a tail of 50 to 65 centimeters. Normally, the weight is between 5 and 9 kilograms,

The Nausella olivacea it is the smallest. The average weight of this animal is 3 kilograms and measures 36 to 39 centimeters, with a tail 20 to 24 centimeters long..


The color of the coat presents differences between each species. Thus, the South American ring-tailed coati (Nasua nasua) exhibits a dark brown or reddish color, with a lighter belly. The tail rings are usually white. It has markings on the face, located on the ears, around the eyes and on the muzzle. As for the legs, they are black.

The white-nosed coati (Nasua narica), it is usually reddish, dark brown or yellowish. His eyes are masked, while his throat, chin and muzzle are light gray..

On the face it has gray and black spots, with a white mark on each cheek, above and below each eye and bordering the end of the muzzle. As for the tail, it has black rings.

In relation to the Andean coati (Nasuella olivacea) has a coat that varies from reddish to olive. Its tail is grayish yellow, with gray rings.

In the following video you can see a family of coatis in their natural habitat:


The coati expresses its state of mind through vocalizations or body postures. Thus, it can emit various sounds to convey to the group its fear or anger, when faced with the threat of a predator. Also, while he is cleaning, he produces species of songs, which infect the rest of the joy he feels at that moment.

As for contact calls, they are a set of high-pitched and low-intensity sounds. They are generally used when the members of the group are dispersed.

Another way to communicate is by using the chirp. These are a series of short sounds, emitted quickly. They are used by sub-adults as a sign of aggression, which is usually followed by a hostile pursuit of the intruder..

Also, they tend to vocalize during fights, in a way of intimidation. When the mammal needs to reaffirm its dominance over the territory, snort loudly, while keeping its tail erect.

Body positions

Coatis take special postures when they need to express a message. Thus, a sign of submission consists of hiding its nose between the front legs. On the contrary, to be aggressive, he lowers his head, uncovers his teeth and takes a sharp leap towards the enemy.

Likewise, during a fight, the mammal can raise its nose, extend its neck, raise its tail and show its teeth. This pose is known as nose up and can be accompanied by biting, in case the opponent does not retreat.

On the other hand, the females threaten and chase the males, during the beginning of the mating season. Also, mothers intimidate other females, if they get too close to their young..

State of conservation

The populations of the three species of coatis show a significant decrease. This is due to various factors, among which are indiscriminate hunting and environmental degradation..

This situation has caused the IUCN to categorize the Nasua nasua and to Nasua narica within the group of animals with low risk of extinction. Regarding the Nasuella olivacea, is in danger of disappearing from its natural habitat.


One of the problems that afflicts this mammal is its capture and sale as a pet. The situation is aggravated because a high percentage of these are young, negatively affecting the reproductive process. In this way, the survival of the animal is put at risk..

In addition, these procyonids are poached for their meat and skin. Also, they are accidentally caught in traps, intended for other species. Likewise, they can be killed as a result of the collision with vehicles, when these animals try to cross the road.

On the other hand, there are campaigns to control some predators, such as the coyote. One of the techniques used to kill him is the use of poison, a substance that is consumed by the coati, causing its death..

Populations in the United States are losing genetic diversity. This is related to the fragmentation of the habitat, which causes the loss of contact with the communities that live in the south of that country..

Habitat degradation

The coati faces the destruction of its natural habitat, caused, among other factors, by deforestation and changes in land use. Thus, in various Andean regions, the cloud forest is converted into agricultural areas. As for the páramo area, the man is using the land for pine crops.

Due to the fact that some areas of its distribution coincide with densely populated areas, this mammal can be hunted by dogs. In addition to this, these domestic animals could transmit diseases such as rabies and canine distemper, conditions to which coatis are highly susceptible..


The actions will depend on the region where the coati lives. For example, in New Mexico, the white-nosed coati is considered an endangered species. In contrast, in Arizona, due to its abundance, it can be legally hunted all year round. Likewise, in Honduras it is included in Appendix III of CITES.

As for the ring-tailed coati, it lives in some protected regions of Colombia and Ecuador. However, experts consider it necessary to identify the potential threats that exist within their environment..

The Andean coati lacks confirmed records on the areas where it is protected. In this sense, the priority is to determine the problems facing the species. Thus, the planning and execution of effective conservation measures is guaranteed..

Habitat and distribution

- Distribution

Cusumbos, as they are also known, are neotropical mammals, which are distributed from the southwestern area of ​​the United States (Texas, New Mexico and southern Arizona) to northern Uruguay and Argentina..

- Habitat

In general, they are found in a great diversity of habitats. These range from arid and warm areas to the humid forests of the Amazon. They also inhabit the slopes of the Andean Cordillera mountains, riparian forests, grasslands, tropical forests and scrublands..


Nasua nasua

This species is found in South America, from Colombia and Venezuela to the northern regions of Argentina and Uruguay. In Venezuela, it is absent in the grasslands of the Llanos regions. The South American coati has been introduced to Chile, on Robinson Crusoe Island, which is part of the Juan Fernández archipelago..

Regarding the habitat, it prefers those of the forest type, which are found at elevations of up to 2,500 meters. Thus, it lives in evergreen forests, deciduous rain forests, riverside gallery forests, dry scrub forest and xeric chaco.

Nasua narica

The white-nosed coati ranges from southern New Mexico and Arizona, through Mexico to Panama. In this range the region of the Sierra Madre Central and Baja California is excluded. Also, it can be found in the western part of the South American Andes, especially in Colombia..

This species easily adapts to various environments. However, it is generally found in open and tropical forests. In New Mexico and Arizona, the Nasua narica found in oak forests and pine forests.

As for the southwestern United States, this animal lives in riverside canyons, with altitudes between 1,400 and 2,300 meters above sea level. It is seldom sighted in deserts or open grasslands.

Nasuella olivacea

This mammal is endemic to the Andean zone of Ecuador and Colombia, although it can eventually be found in Peru. In these regions, it lives in the paramo of the Andes and in the cloud forests, at altitudes of 1,300 and 4,260 meters above sea level. The Andean coati also inhabits the fragmented forests that border Medellín and Bogotá, in Colombia.

Taxonomy and subspecies

- Taxonomy

-Animal Kingdom.

-Subkingdom: Bilateria

-Phylum: Chordate.

-Subfilum: Vertebrate.

-Infrafilum: Gnathostomata

-Superclass: Tetrapoda.

-Class: Mammal.

-Subclass: Theria.

-Infraclass: Eutheria.

-Order: Carnivora.

-Suborder: Caniformia.

-Family: Procyonidae.

- Genus: Nasua

 Species: Nasua narica

Subspecies Nasua narica molaris, Nasua narica narica, Nasua narica yucatanica and Nasua narica nelsoni,

Species: Nasua nasua

Subspecies: Nasua nasua aricana, Nasua nasua vittata, Nasua nasua boliviensis, Nasua nasua spadicea, Nasua nasua candace, Nasua nasua solitaria, Nasua nasua cinerascens, Nasua nasua quichua, Nasua nasua dorsalis, Nasua nasua nasua, Nasua nasua manium, and Nasua nasua montana, Nasua nasua manium, and Nasua nasua montana Nasua nasua molaris,

- Genus: Nasuella

Species: Nasuella olivacea

Subspecies: Nasuella olivacea meridensis, Nasuella olivacea quitensis and Nasuella olivacea olivácea,


The coati is an omnivorous animal. This procyonid spends much of the day looking for food. He usually does it on the ground, although he could also explore in the trees.

Their diet is based on insects and their larvae, spiders and other invertebrates. Occasionally, it tends to eat small vertebrates, such as rodents, lizards, small birds, and their eggs. Also, eat snakes, crocodile eggs, squirrels and even skunks.

This diet is usually supplemented with acorns, berries, wild grapes, figs, cactus fruits, roots, seasonal fruits, seeds and agave stems..

Diet modification

This animal can live in urban areas or in areas close to these. Consequently, he has become an expert explorer of the foods that are deposited in the garbage containers. In addition, the man frequently offers him industrialized food, such as cookies, bread, fruit juices and cookies, among others..

In this way, the substitution of the natural diet for inappropriate processed foods results in a nutritional deficit. In addition, the consumption of adulterated, damaged or poorly preserved food, contained in waste deposits, could alter proper gastrointestinal function.

Also, there may be significant damage to the immune system, causing serious problems in the animal's condition. This situation is aggravated by the ingestion of indigestible materials, such as aluminum foil and plastic wrap..

Eating methods

The groups of coatis forage in a structured way, considering their ages and stages of development.

Thus, subadults and adults are distributed around the periphery, while juveniles gather in the center. In this way, they carry out a shared surveillance of the area. This behavior also contributes to the sociability of the members of the group..

On the other hand, when the female manages to enter the herd, the time she dedicates to monitoring the environment decreases, to spend a large part of her time actively exploring the terrain and thus finding her food..

To locate its food, the coati uses its keen sense of smell. Its particular nose, which can move like a pig, uses it to remove leaves, dirt and small stones. This way you can catch some small insects, while you are looking for seeds or roots..

On the other hand, this mammal uses the strong and curved claws of the front legs to cut the logs or dig in the ground..


In the coati, the female becomes sexually mature when she reaches 2 years of age. As for the male, he can mate at 3 years. At this time he becomes lonely and will only form a couple to copulate.

The breeding season is associated with the beginning of the rainy season. This is because during this season there is maximum availability of food, especially fruits..

At the beginning of the mating season, the adult male goes to the herd of females and young, where he is accepted. A very particular reproductive behavior among coatis is that the female shows hostility towards the male, who generally assumes behaviors of subordination towards this.

Courtship and copulation

In relation to courtship, the male usually chases the female. However, it is often the female who initiates the approach. Thus, he approaches the male, establishing gentle contacts with him. In addition, it usually presents the anogenital area, so that it captures the chemical signals of estrus..

The female's heat occurs between late winter and early spring. Some of the signs of estrus are swollen genitalia, increased interactions for body hygiene, and increased odor markings on the ground..

After recognizing each other, the couple is ready to copulate, an act that takes place on the ground. In coatis there is a polygynous system, where males can mate with several females.

During copulation, which lasts around seven minutes, the male repeatedly bites the female, especially at times when she tries to escape..

Gestation and upbringing

The pregnant female separates from the group and devotes herself to rest. However, build the nest first, in a protected area with easy access to forage. Thus, you can choose a rocky niche or in the branches of a tree.

In relation to gestation, it lasts about 11 weeks. After this time, between 2 and 7 young are born. When the juveniles are 5 to 6 weeks old, they and their mother join the herd. They are generally well received by group members, although females without offspring may show little acceptance..

Because of this, the mother often exhibits some temporary hostility towards these females. The opposite behavior occurs among adult females with offspring, which show signs of cooperative behaviors with the new offspring..

However, the mother is the one who almost completely assumes the responsibility for the child's upbringing..

In this video you can see a family of newborn coatis in a nest in South America:


The coati has mainly diurnal habits, unlike the vast majority of species of the Procyonidae family that are active at night..

When the animal feels threatened or to counter a predator's onslaught, it becomes a fierce fighter. In combat, the coati defends itself using its sharp canines and strong jaw. Also, it can lead to forceful kicks, which knock down or destabilize the enemy.

A typical behavior of these mammals is to rub their fur, and that of other members of their group, with the resin of the trees, especially with the Trattinnickia aspera. The reason for this could be related to the fungicidal effect, repellent properties against insects or as a form of scent mark.

Social group

During much of its life, this mammal is gregarious, however, males and females have seasons where they exhibit solitary behaviors.

The social groups are made up of adult females, two years old or more, subadults, between 1 and 2 years old and young people of both sexes under one year old. When the male is sexually mature, around two or three years of life, he is excluded from the group, adopting a solitary lifestyle.

Various links are established between the members of the group. One of these arises from mutual grooming, which is also beneficial behavior for both coatis. Experts point out that the burden of ectoparasites, such as the tick, is much lower among members of the group than in solitary males.


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