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White-nosed Coati (Nasua narica) Fact Sheet: Summary

White-nosed Coati (Nasua narica) Fact Sheet

White-nosed coati, Costa Rica

White-nosed Coati (Nasua narica)

Image credit: © Ken-ichi Ueda / Flickr. Some rights reserved; CC BY-NC 2.0.


Physical Characteristics


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Procyonidae — coatis, olingos, raccoons, kinkajou, ringtails

Genus: Nasua — coatis

Species: Nasua narica — white-nosed coati

Subspecies: Nasua narica narica — southern Mexico, Central America, and north and west Colombia
Subspecies: Nasua narica molaris — Mexico and southwest U.S.
Subspecies: Nasua narica nelsoni (a.k.a. “dwarf coati”) — Mexico (Cozumel Island)
Subspecies: Nasua narica yucatanica — Mexico (Yucatán Peninsula)


White-nosed coati: Typically 3.5 to 5.6, up to 7 kg (7.7 to 12, up to 15 lb). Males weigh, on average, 1/3 more than females.

Head-body Length

White-nosed coati: 430 to 660 mm (17 to 26 in)
N. n. nelsoni ("dwarf coati"): 416 to 437 mm (16 to 17 in)

Tail Length

White-nosed coati: 420 to 680 mm (17 to 27 in)
N. n. nelsoni ("dwarf coati"): 328 to 348 mm (13 to 14 in)

General Appearance

Shoulders muscular. Long, flexible snout that extends past lower lip. ears short and round. Curved claws. Long, slender tail approximately equal in length to head and body.


Wide color variation across range. Body typically light buff to reddish to dark brown, with yellow or silver hues. Muzzle has white patch. Newborns darker in color than adults, with more distinct rings on tail.

Distribution & Status

Behavior & Ecology


Southwestern United States, through Mexico and Central America. Southern-most extent of range still being investigated.


Primarily tropical woodlands and open forests. Less commonly, riparian and temperate woodlands, palm stands, and various habitats of mountain regions in the U.S. and Mexico.

IUCN Status

Least Concern

CITES Appendix

Appendix III in Honduras. No trade protections elsewhere.

Other Designations

Dwarf coati listed as Endangered in Mexico. Protected in New Mexico, USA.

Populations in the Wild

No global population estimates. Considered rare to common, depending on location. More common in tropical areas than temperate/arid regions.

Threats to Survival

Large-scale habitat loss, hunting, pet trade, drought, and population fragmentation.


Walk quadrupedally, with body supported by 3 legs at slow speed; gallop short distances. Can stand bipedally for short periods. Easily climb trees and vines. Reach fruits in large trees by climbing woody vines or smaller trees nearby, and moving horizontally through the tree canopy. Descend trees headfirst.

Activity Cycle

Active during the day, with most time spent foraging. At night, sleep in nests in trees or cliffs. Males may be more active at night during the breeding season.

Activity Cycle

Active during the day, with most time spent foraging. At night, sleep in nests in trees or cliffs. Males may be more active at night during the breeding season.

Social Behavior

Social structure unique among Order Carnivora. Social groups comprised of related females and their offspring. Typically 4 to 26 individuals. Adult males generally solitary, except during mating season.


Make many types of calls and vocalizations. Communicate visually using nose, tail, and head postures. Both sexes scent mark, though more commonly done by males. Individuals groom themselves and other group members.


Mainly, fruits, arthropods, worms, and other invertebrates. Occasionally, pollen, nectars, lizards, snakes, frogs, rodents, sea turtle and bird eggs, carrion, food from anthropogenic sources.


jaguar, puma, ocelot, raptors, snakes, monkeys, humans, domestic dogs; possibly coyote and bobcat

Relationship with Humans

Coatis can habituate to humans, especially when fed by tourists; become a nuisance or show aggression. Not liked by some farmers and hunters, as coatis may take fruit crops and adult males defend themselves from hunting dogs.

Reproduction & Development

Species Highlights

Mating System

May depend on distribution and home range size of females. Possibly promiscuous; paternity research needed on N. narica.


Breed seasonally; only once per year. Strong synchrony in timing of mating and birthing across groups.

Parental Care

Provided by females

Sexual Maturity

Females: Physically mature at 22 months.
Males: Physically mature at about 34 months. May not successfully breed until 3 to 4 years old because of male competition.


About 70 to 77 days

Litter Size

1 to 7 young

Interbirth Interval

Breed annually

Birth Weight

80 to 140 g (2.8 to 4.9 oz)

Lactation and Weaning

Females nurse young for up to 4 months.

Typical Life Expectancy

Wild populations: not reported
Managed care: median life expectancy of 13–14 years

Feature Facts

  • Coatis distinctive for their long, flexible snout and upright, ringed tail
  • Closely related to olingos, raccoons, ringtails, and kinkajous
  • Common in neotropical forests of Central America
  • Very strong animals
  • Climb trees easily but spend most time on the ground
  • Most social and most active during the day of all species in the family (Procyonidae)
  • Many types of vocalizations and visual signals
  • Find food by smell and likely memory
  • Quickly kill invertebrates that bite or sting by rolling them between forepaws
  • Benefit from enrichment objects and problem-solving challenges in managed care
  • Name “coati” originates from Tupian languages of South America; refers to tendency of this animal to sleep with its tail or paws over its face

About This Fact Sheet

For detailed information, click the tabs at the top of this page.


© 2021 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance


How to cite: White-nosed Coati (Nasua narica) Fact Sheet. c2021. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. white-nosed-coati.
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2019 Dec 31)


Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to


Many thanks to Dr. Ben Hirsch for providing expert content review of this fact sheet.

Dr. Hirsch studies animal behavior and ecology, with particular interests in mammalian social behavior, predator–prey interactions, movement ecology, disease ecology, animal–plant ecology, and more. Dr. Hirsch has investigated the biology of white-nosed and ring-tailed coatis, as well as agoutis, racoons, beach mice, and capuchin monkeys. He has authored/co-authored notable journal articles on coati social networks, social foraging, competition, agonistic behavior, reproduction and paternity, and movement ecology. Dr. Hirsch is also a co-author of the book chapter “Causes and consequences of coati sociality” in Biology and conservation of musteloids (Oxford University Press, 2017).

He is currently a senior lecturer in Zoology and Ecology at James Cook University, Australia, and a collaborator on international research initiatives — for example, Communication & Coordination Across Scales, which investigates communication and social relationships in animal societies.

View Dr. Hirsch’s JCU research profile and visit the Hirsch Lab website.

Thank you to Prof. Peter Waser, Professor Emeritus of Purdue University, for contributing useful comments.

Thank you to Kym Janke for sharing her knowledge of animal husbandry for the Managed Care section of this fact sheet.

Kym Janke is the Lead Keeper of the San Diego Zoo’s Children’s Zoo (an Animal Connections department). She is responsible for overseeing animal care as well as education-outreach programs. She has worked for San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance for 13 years and has extensive experience in zoo animal husbandry across a wide variety of taxa.

Early in her career, Kym developed expertise in the husbandry and breeding of cheetahs at Wildlife Safari in Oregon. She also previously worked at the Greater Vancouver Zoo in Canada.

Since 2008, Kym has served on the board of the American Association of Zoo Keepers San Diego. She is also involved in AZA’s Animal Ambassador Scientific Advisory Group (AASAG).

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