Cozumel raccoon

The Cozumel raccoon (Procyon pygmaeus), also called the pygmy raccoon,[2][3] is a critically endangered species of island raccoon endemic on Cozumel Island off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.[2][4]

Other common names for the Cozumel raccoon include dwarf raccoon, Cozumel Island raccoon, and Cozumel raccoon bear.[2]

Cozumel raccoon[1]
Cozumel Raccoon2
Scientific classification
P. pygmaeus
Binomial name
Procyon pygmaeus
(Merriam, 1901)
Cozumel Raccoon area
Cozumel raccoon range


Clinton Hart Merriam first described the Cozumel raccoon as morphologically distinctive from its mainland relative, the common raccoon subspecies Procyon lotor hernandezii, in 1901. Since then, other scientists have generally agreed with Merriam's assessment, especially Kristofer Helgen and Don E. Wilson, who have dismissed this classification for the other four island raccoons in their studies in 2003 and 2005.[3][5] Therefore, the Cozumel raccoon was listed as the only distinct species of the genus Procyon besides the common raccoon and the crab-eating raccoon in the third edition of Mammal Species of the World.[1] An archaeological study showed that Maya from Cozumel used raccoons of reduced stature, which suggests that the size reduction of this raccoon is not a recent phenomenon.[6]

No true fossils of the species are known, although skeletons have been found at some archeological sites on the island. Cozumel island itself separated from the mainland during the late Pleistocene, so that the species is unlikely to be older than 122,000 years. Data from molecular clock studies implies a divergence date from the common raccoon of anything between 26,000 and 69,000 years ago.[7]


Raccoons of North & Middle America (1950) P. lotor & P. pygmaeus
Common raccoon skull (left) and Cozumel raccoon skull (right).

Merriam described the Cozumel raccoon as being markedly smaller, both externally and cranially and easy to distinguish from the common raccoon because of its "broad black throat band and golden yellow tail, short posteriorly expanded and rounded nasals and peculiarities of the teeth".[8] Its reduced teeth point to a long period of isolation.[9]

Apart from its smaller size and more rounded snout, the Cozumel raccoon is similar in appearance to the common raccoon. The fur over the upper body is buff-grey ticked with occasional black hairs, while the underparts and legs are pale buff in color. The top of the head lacks the buff tinge of the rest of the body, and has a grizzled grey coloration, contrasting with the white fur of the muzzle and chin, and with the black "mask" pattern around the eyes. A line of brownish-grey fur runs down the middle of the snout, joining the "mask" patterns on either side. The tail is yellowish, with six or seven black or brown rings that become fainter on the underside. In males, the scruff of the neck has a patch of relatively bright, orange fur.[7]

Adults range from 58 to 82 centimetres (23 to 32 in) in total length, including the 23 to 26 centimetres (9.1 to 10.2 in) tail, and weigh between 3 to 4 kilograms (6.6 to 8.8 lb). This represents an example of insular dwarfism, and the animals are, on average, about 18% shorter and 45% lighter than the subspecies of common raccoon found on the local mainland, P. lotor shufeldti. Cozumel raccoons also exhibit sexual dimorphism, with the males being around 20% heavier than the females.[7]

Distribution and habitat

According to the IUCN Red List, they are considered critically endangered.[2] In fact, they report that only about 250–300 individuals are left on the planet.[2][10] These raccoons are so extremely endangered because of their small geographic range. They are endemic to Cozumel Island, an island around 478 square kilometres (185 sq mi) in area, lying off the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.[11] Cozumel Island supports several other carnivores, including the dwarf coati (Nasua narica nelsoni) and dwarf gray fox (Urocyon sp.).[12][13] Islands usually lack terrestrial mammals, especially carnivores, making the Cozumel raccoon and the others unique.[14]

On the island, the raccoons inhabit a range of habitats, but are primarily limited to the mangrove forests and sandy wetlands in the northwest tip of the island.[11][13] However, they have also been captured in semi-evergreen forests and agricultural lands surrounding these preferred habitats.,[7][12] and in the Punta Sur ecological park at the south end of the island.[13]


Relatively little is known about the group size of the raccoons. They are primarily nocturnal and solitary animals, but may sometimes form family groups possibly consisting of the mother and cubs.[13]

The raccoons live in densities of about 17-27 individuals per km2.,[12] and inhabit home ranges of around 67 hectares (170 acres) on average.[15] However, individuals do not appear to defend territories to any great extent, and their close relative, the common raccoon, can exist at very high densities when food is abundant.[16] Although there have been no detailed studies of their reproductive habits, females seem to give birth primarily between November and January, possibly with a second litter during the summer months.[7]

Cozumel Raccoon1
Cozumel raccoon


The habitat specificity of Cozumel raccoons is in large part due to the type of foods they consume. Their overall diet consists of crabs, fruit, frogs, lizards, and insects.[11] They are a generalist omnivore, but crabs make up over 50% of their diet.[11] Their diet is somewhat seasonal.[11] During the wet season, fruit and vegetation are more abundant and become a large portion of the raccoons' diet. Then in the dry season, they begin to consume more of the crabs, insects, lizards, etc. Crabs comprising more than half the food they eat could have an effect on their limited distribution: they stay near the water where crabs are abundant.

Morphological specializations

A large amount of research has been performed to determine whether the Cozumel raccoon is indeed a separate species from the common raccoon. Cuaron et al. (2004) reported that research conducted by many different scholars concludes that they are separate species.[13] Body size and cranium size have been reported to be smaller in P. pygmaeus, hence the name pygmy. Other morphological differences include a broad black throat band, golden yellow tail and reduced teeth; "these and other characteristics point to a long period of isolation".[13]

Conservation status

Island carnivores at the top of the food chain often become extinct soon after the arrival of humans.[14] The main danger to the Cozumel raccoon is development of Cozumel island due to the tourism industry.[17] Because the raccoons are only located in a small coastal area at the northwest corner of the island- an area covered for development- the effects of habitat loss are especially severe.[17] There are no laws protecting the raccoons and also no land set aside for them.[17]

Newer threats to their survival that have been researched in recent years are diseases and parasites.[18] Cozumel has a population of feral cats and domestic cats and dogs that can transmit diseases to the raccoons.[18] On average, there are about 2 different species present in each host. That is not overall abundance, but simply the absolute number of species found. Some captured raccoons had developed antibodies to certain diseases. Cats are only newly introduced on the island due to humans bringing them as pets.[18]

Conservation actions

One conservation approach would be to reduce or even eliminate human impact on the mangrove forests, especially in the northwest corner of the island.[12] This would constitute the halting of development in this area and to establish protected land for the raccoons. This land to be set aside would include the habitat that is crucial to the survival of the species, most importantly the mangrove forests and surrounding semi-evergreen forests.

Another method that could help to restore the populations is captive breeding techniques.[17] If they willingly reproduce in captivity as the common raccoons do, it could be used successfully. Additionally, the arrival of pets, especially feral cats, brought more diseases and parasites that are having a significant effect on the raccoons. The best method of reducing these impacts is to remove as many feral cats as possible. For any conservation action to be successful, conservation personnel will need to find a way to compromise with the tourism industry to save the Cozumel raccoons.[17]

Glatston also urged researchers to continue examining the species to assure that the pygmy is a distinct species from its mainland sister taxon.[17]


  1. ^ a b Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 627–628. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Cuarón AD, de Grammont PC, Vázquez-Domínguez E, Valenzuela-Galván D, García-Vasco D, Reid F & Helgen K (2008). "Procyon pygmaeus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2008-01-26.
  3. ^ a b Helgen, Kristofer M.; Wilson, Don E. (2005). "A Systematic and Zoogeographic Overview of the Raccoons of Mexico and Central America". In Sánchez-Cordero, Víctor; Medellín, Rodrigo A. Contribuciones mastozoológicas en homenaje a Bernardo Villa. Mexico City: Instituto de Ecología of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. pp. 221–236. ISBN 978-970-32-2603-0. Retrieved 2008-08-09.
  4. ^ Zeveloff, Samuel I. (2002). Raccoons: A Natural History. Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Books. p. 45. ISBN 978-1-58834-033-7.
  5. ^ Helgen, Kristofer M.; Wilson, Don E. (January 2003). "Taxonomic status and conservation relevance of the raccoons (Procyon spp.) of the West Indies". Journal of Zoology. 259 (1): 69–76. doi:10.1017/S0952836902002972. ISSN 0952-8369.
  6. ^ Hamblin, NL (1984). Animal Use by the Cozumel Maya. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.
  7. ^ a b c d e de Villa-Meza, A.; et al. (2011). "Procyon pygmaeus (Carnivora: Procyonidae)". Mammalian Species. 43 (1): 87–93. doi:10.1644/877.1.
  8. ^ Merriam, CH (1901). "Six new mammals from Cozumel Island, Yucatan". Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. 14: 99–104.
  9. ^ Goldman, EA; Jackson, Hartley H. T. (1950). "Raccoons of North and Middle America". North American Fauna. 60: 1–153. doi:10.3996/nafa.60.0001.
  10. ^ McFadden, K. W. (2004). "The ecology, evolution, and natural history of the endangered carnivores of Cozumel Island, Mexico" (PhD Dissertation). New York: Columbia University.
  11. ^ a b c d e McFadden KW, Sambrotto RN, Medellín RA, Gompper ME (2006). "Feeding habits of endangered pygmy raccoons (Procyon pygmaeus) based on stable isotope and fecal analyses". Journal of Mammalogy. 87 (3): 501–509. doi:10.1644/05-MAMM-A-150R1.1.
  12. ^ a b c d McFadden, Katherine W.; García-Vasco, Denise; Cuarón, Alfredo D.; Valenzuela-Galván, David; Medellín, Rodrigo A.; Gompper, Matthew E. (2009). "Vulnerable island carnivores: the endangered endemic dwarf procyonids from Cozumel Island". Biodiversity Conservation. 19 (2): 491–502. doi:10.1007/s10531-009-9701-8.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Cuaron, A.D.; Martinez-Morales M.A.; McFadden K.W.; Valenzuela D.; Gompper M.E. (2004). "The status of dwarf carnivores on Cozumel Island, Mexico". Biodiversity Conservation. 13 (2): 317–331. CiteSeerX doi:10.1023/
  14. ^ a b Alcover, J.A.; M. McMinn (1994). "Predators of vertebrates on islands". BioScience. 44 (1): 12–18. doi:10.2307/1312401. JSTOR 1312401.
  15. ^ Cuarón, A. D.; et al. (2009). "Conservation of the endemic dwarf carnivores of Cozumel Island, Mexico" (PDF). Small Carnivore Conservation. 41 (1): 15–21. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-31.
  16. ^ Lotze, J.-H.; Anderson, S. (1979). "Procyon lotor". Mammalian Species. 119 (119): 1–8. doi:10.2307/3503959. JSTOR 3503959.
  17. ^ a b c d e f Glatston, A.R., ed. (1994). "The red panda, olingos, coatis, raccoons, and their relatives: status survey and conservation action plan for procyonids and ailurids". Gland, Switzerland: IUCN (World Conservation Union).
  18. ^ a b c McFadden, K.W.; Wade, S.E.; Dubovi, E.J. & Gompper, M.E. (2005). "A serology and fecal parsitology survey of the critically endangered pygmy raccoon (Procyon pygmaeus)". Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 41 (3): 615–617. doi:10.7589/0090-3558-41.3.615. PMID 16244074.

The genus Bassaricyon consists of small Neotropical procyonids, popularly known as olingos . They are native to the rainforests of Central and South America from Nicaragua to Peru. They are arboreal and nocturnal, and live at elevations from sea level to 2,750 m. Olingos closely resemble the kinkajou in morphology and habits, though they lack prehensile tails and extrudable tongues, have more extended muzzles, and possess anal scent glands. They also resemble galagos and certain lemurs, which are primates.

Genetic studies have shown that the closest relatives of the olingos are actually the coatis; the divergence between the two groups is estimated to have occurred about 10.2 million years (Ma) ago during the Tortonian age, while kinkajous split off from the other extant procyonids about 22.6 Ma ago during the Aquitanian age. The similarities between kinkajous and olingos are thus an example of parallel evolution.


Bassariscus is a genus in the family Procyonidae. There are two species in the genus: the ring-tailed cat or ringtail (B. astutus) and the cacomistle (B. sumichrasti). Genetic studies have indicated that the closest relatives of Bassariscus are raccoons, from which they diverged about 10 million years ago. The two lineages of Bassariscus are thought to have separated after only another two million years, making it the extant procyonid genus with the earliest diversification.

The name is a Greek word for fox ("bassaris") with a Latinized diminutive ending ("-iscus"). The genus was first described by Elliott Coues in 1887. He proposed the word "bassarisk" as the English term for animals in this genus. Its habitat includes semi-arid areas in the southwestern United States, the whole of Mexico, as well as moist tropical forests in Central America.


The cacomistle, Bassariscus sumichrasti, is a nocturnal, arboreal and omnivorous member of the carnivoran family Procyonidae. Its preferred habitats are wet, tropical, evergreen woodlands and mountain forests, though seasonally it will venture into drier deciduous forests.

Nowhere in its range (from southern Mexico to western Panama) is B. sumichrasti common. This is especially true in Costa Rica, where it inhabits only a very small area. It is completely dependent on forest habitat, making it particularly susceptible to deforestation.

The term cacomistle is from the Nahuatl language (tlahcomiztli) and means "half cat" or "half mountain lion"; it is sometimes also used to refer to the ringtail, Bassariscus astutus, a similar species that inhabits arid northern Mexico and the American Southwest.


Coatis, also known as the coatimundis (), are members of the raccoon family (Procyonidae) in the genera Nasua and Nasuella. They are diurnal mammals native to South America, Central America, and southwestern North America. The name coatimundi is purportedly derived from the Tupian languages of Brazil.The coati is also known in English as the hog-nosed coon.

Eastern lowland olingo

The eastern lowland olingo (Bassaricyon alleni) is a species of olingo from South America, where it is known from the lowlands east of the Andes in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Venezuela. It is the only olingo species found east of the Andes. The Latin species name honors Joel Asaph Allen, the American zoologist who first described the genus Bassaricyon.

Guadeloupe raccoon

The Guadeloupe raccoon (Procyon lotor minor) is a common raccoon endemic on the two main islands Basse-Terre Island and Grande-Terre of Guadeloupe in the Lesser Antilles.

Island raccoon

The term island raccoons is used as a generic term for four endangered and one (or two) extinct subspecies or species of raccoon (Procyon) endemic on small Central American and Caribbean islands, such as Cozumel and Guadeloupe. Other subspecies of raccoon living on islands, like that of the common raccoon (Procyon lotor) native to the Florida Keys, are generally not included under this term, since it was established at a time when all five (or six) "island raccoons" were considered distinct species. The five (or six) populations are:

Bahamian raccoon (Procyon lotor maynardi): subspecies of the common raccoon endemic on New Providence Island in the Bahamas

Barbados raccoon (Procyon lotor gloveralleni): extinct subspecies of the common raccoon endemic on Barbados until 1964

Cozumel raccoon (Procyon pygmaeus): species endemic on Cozumel

Guadeloupe raccoon (Procyon lotor minor): subspecies of the common raccoon endemic on the two main islands Basse-Terre Island and Grande-Terre of Guadeloupe, which is assumed to be consubspecific (of the same subspecies) with the Bahamian raccoon

Tres Marias raccoon (Procyon lotor insularis): subspecies of the common raccoon endemic on the two main islands María Madre and María Magdalena of the Islas Marías, which is probably extinct on María Magdalena (this population is sometimes considered to be a separate subspecies (Procyon lotor vicinus))


Lutrogale is a genus of otters, with only one extant species—the smooth-coated otter.


Nasua is a genus of coatis of the family Procyonidae. Two additional species of coatis, commonly known as mountain coatis, are placed in the genus Nasuella.


Mountain coatis are two species of procyonid mammals from the genus Nasuella. Unlike the larger coatis from the genus Nasua, mountain coatis only weigh 1.0–1.5 kilograms (2.2–3.3 lb) and are endemic to the north Andean highlands in South America.

Nasuella meridensis

The eastern mountain coati or eastern dwarf coati (Nasuella meridensis) is a small procyonid found in cloud forest and páramo at altitudes of 2,000–4,000 metres (6,600–13,100 ft) in the Andes of western Venezuela. Until 2009, it was usually included as a subspecies of the western mountain coati, but the eastern mountain coati is overall smaller, somewhat shorter-tailed on average, has markedly smaller teeth, a paler olive-brown pelage, and usually a dark mid-dorsal stripe on the back (versus more rufescent or blackish, and usually without a dark mid-dorsal stripe in the western mountain coati). When the two were combined, they were rated as Data Deficient by the IUCN, but following the split the eastern mountain coati is considered endangered.

Nasuella olivacea

The western mountain coati or western dwarf coati (Nasuella olivacea) is a small procyonid, found in cloud forest and páramo at altitudes of 1,300–4,250 metres (4,270–13,940 ft) in the Andes of Colombia and Ecuador. A population discovered in the Apurímac–Cuzco region of southern Peru (more than 1,000 km or 620 mi south of the previous distribution limit) has tentatively been identified as the western mountain coati, but may represent an undescribed taxon.Until 2009, the western mountain coati (then simply known as the mountain coati) usually included the eastern mountain coati as a subspecies, but that species is overall smaller, somewhat shorter-tailed on average, has markedly smaller teeth, a paler olive-brown pelage, and usually a dark mid-dorsal stripe on the back (versus more rufescent or blackish, and usually without a dark mid-dorsal stripe in the western mountain coati). When the two were combined, they were rated as Data Deficient by the IUCN, but following the split the western mountain coati is considered Near Threatened.There are two subspecies of the western mountain coati: N. o. olivacea and the slightly smaller and darker N. o. quitensis with less distinct rings on the tail. The former is known from Colombia and the latter from Ecuador, but the exact distribution limit between the two is not known.

Northern olingo

The northern olingo (Bassaricyon gabbii), also known as the bushy-tailed olingo or as simply the olingo (due to it being the most commonly seen of the species), is a tree-dwelling member of the family Procyonidae, which also includes raccoons. It was the first species of olingo to be described, and while it is considered by some authors to be the only genuine olingo species, a recent review of the Bassaricyon genus has shown that there are a total of four olingo species, although two of the former species should now be considered as a part of this species. Its scientific name honors William More Gabb, who collected the first specimen. It is native to Central America.


The olinguito , Bassaricyon neblina, is a mammal of the raccoon family Procyonidae that lives in montane forests in the Andes of western Colombia and Ecuador. The species was described as new in 2013. The species name neblina is Spanish for fog or mist, referring to the cloud forest habitat of the olinguito.On 22 May 2014 the International Institute for Species Exploration declared the olinguito as one of the "Top 10 New Species of 2014" among species discovered in 2013. It is the first new carnivoran mammal described in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years.

Procyon (genus)

Procyon is a genus of nocturnal mammals, comprising three species commonly known as raccoons, in the family Procyonidae. The most familiar species, the common raccoon (P. lotor), is often known simply as "the" raccoon, as the two other raccoon species in the genus are native only to the tropics and less well known. Genetic studies have shown that the closest relatives of raccoons are the ring-tailed cats and cacomistles of genus Bassariscus, from which they diverged about 10 million years ago.


Procyonidae is a New World family of the order Carnivora. It comprises the raccoons, coatis, kinkajous, olingos, olinguitos, ringtails, and cacomistles. Procyonids inhabit a wide range of environments and are generally omnivorous.

South American coati

The South American coati or ring-tailed coati (Nasua nasua) is a species of coati and a member of the raccoon family (Procyonidae), from tropical and subtropical South America. In Brazilian Portuguese, it is known as quati. An adult generally weighs 2–7.2 kg (4.4–15.9 lb) and is 85–113 cm (33–44 in) long, with half of that being its tail. Its color is highly variable and the rings on the tail may be only somewhat visible, but its distinguishing characteristic is that it lacks the largely white snout (or "nose") of its northern relative, the white-nosed coati.

Tres Marias raccoon

The Tres Marias raccoon (Procyon lotor insularis) is a subspecies of the common raccoon endemic on the two main islands of the Islas Marías, an archipelago off the western coast of the Mexican state of Nayarit. Although sometimes considered to be a valid species, the Tres Marias raccoon is now regarded to be a subspecies of the common raccoon, introduced to the Islas Marías in the recent past. It is slightly larger than the common raccoon and has a distinctive angular skull. There are fewer than 250 mature individuals on the islands, they are hunted by the islanders and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated their conservation status as being "endangered".

Western lowland olingo

The western lowland olingo (Bassaricyon medius) is a species of olingo from Central and South America, where it is known from Panama and from Colombia and Ecuador west of the Andes.

Extant species of family Procyonidae
Extant Carnivora species

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