What WAS That?? Unmasking the Strange Creature I Saw in an Arizona Lumberyard
Many years ago I worked in a supply warehouse on Fort Huachuca. This warehouse was located in the converted horse stables near Reservoir Hill.
What had once been a place for soldiers to park their livestock was now a locale for storage and offices used by the Operations and Maintenance contractors.
The stables were old, but sturdy, made from stone most likely found right there in the Huachuca Mountains.
What is That Creature?
One day as I was doing inventory in the lumber yard, I spotted a strange creature running around. I only caught a glimpse at first. Was it a skunk? Some kind of wild cat? A racoon? It was hard to tell since it was skurrying around between the lumber.
My money was on a cat, but it didn't move quite right. Then I saw a small bit of its head, and I began to wonder if I had spotted some type of desert raccoon, but the coloring and size didn't make sense.
As it darted between rocks and the standing wood, I finally got a better look at the creature sniffing about. It was then that I saw a reddish, fur-covered animal strutting around the yard with his ringed tail held high.
I was still baffled but also intrigued. What in the name of desert animals was this, I wondered.
Meet the Coatimundi
After asking around, my friend Tanya knew exactly what I'd seen. "Oh, that's just Penny, the Lumberyard Coati," she told me. In my mind's eye, I saw it spelled like the title of a children's book.
"What's a coati," I asked. Tanya explained the coatimundi to me.
Not a Ring-Tailed Cat
It turns out, it was pretty rare to spot a coatimundi during the day. Coatis are often mistaken for ring-tailed cats, but unlike ring-tailed cats, the rings go completely around the tail.
According to Wikipedia.org, the coatimundi is It's a member of the raccoon family, but it looks more like a long-tailed monkey with a striped snout.
Coatimundis are fairly rare in the Southwest, but sometimes you can spot them in desert canyons and mountains around Arizona.
The Coatimundi Lifestyle
Coatis eat a mostly vegetarian diet of fruit, nuts, and even cactus, but they also nosh on grubs and other crawly creepies found under rocks.
While this coati didn't seem particularly interested in me, it turns out they're very social animals. With each other, at least. Coatis have been know to travel together in large groups of females with their young in tow. The males are usually solitary.
They are also great climbers and don't mind heading up a tree or finding a way to scale a lumber-yard fence if they're feeling adventurous.