What You Can See on May 10
Submitted by Ted Williams on Wed, 05/10/2006 - 07:03.
From Audubon’s Earth Almanac by Ted Williams and compiled in “Wild Moments,” edited by Connie Isbell, Illustrations by John Burgoyne, Storey Publishing, 174 pages. Desert Jesters Monkey-like, nosy, noisy, gregarious, playful, busy, inquisitive, intelligent, comical. All these adjectives describe the white-nosed coatimundi, the raccoon’s skinny, diurnal cousin, which before 1900 was rare or nonexistent in the U.S. Probably because of a warming trend, the species has been expanding its range into riparian areas and brushy woodlands in the southern parts of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The coatimundi seems to proclaim its attitude by carrying its long, ringed tail straight up and curled at the tip. Now, in Mexico and our Southwest, coatis are mating and, though it hardly seems possible, even more active than usual. Females, which travel in troupes of 5 to 20, admit one dominant male for breeding. At 15 pounds, he is nearly twice their size; but he is submissive. Still, when confronted by a rival male he’ll rear up, puff up, raise his snout, and display his impressive canines in a protracted grimace that can induce laughter in even the most clinical biologists. After the male impregnates the females they throw him out of the troupe. Coatis spend hours grooming each other, removing burrs and ticks with their teeth. Like raccoons, they are omnivores, eating anything they stumble on from fruit to small mammals to invertebrates to reptiles to birds and birds’ eggs. They communicate by barking, chattering, hissing, spitting, growling, snuffling, scampering, and tail waving.