Caring for Coty

Thursday, February 7, 2008
Terri Degenhardt watched Coty, a coatimundi, snack on mealworms Wednesday at Deer Ridge Animal Hospital in Jackson. The omnivore was confiscated at a drug bust and taken to the Humane Society. (Fred Lynch)

An exotic animal arrived at Deer Ridge Animal Hospital recently after the Humane Society contacted them to serve as a foster facility until "Coty," a coatimundi, can be transferred to a rescue group or one of two zoos interested in adopting him.

Coty was brought in by Cape Girardeau Animal Control on a routine stop made at the Humane Society of Cape Girardeau.

It turned out to be not quite a routine visit when adoption counselor Kelli Stewart had to look up the animal on the Internet.

Although he resembles a raccoon, he looks like an anteater, too. Stewart said "he looked like an anteater with hair."

It was the first time she'd seen a coatimundi.

The coatimundi is a mammal related to the raccoon, but the species has a long snout with somewhat piglike features and bearlike claws.

Coty was confiscated during a drug bust. "Maybe a couple times of year we get an animal that's the result of a drug bust," Stewart said.

But usually the animal is not one whose habitat ranges from hot and arid areas to humid Amazonian rainforests or cold Andean mountain slopes.

Director Cheryle Dillon had never seen or heard of a coatimundi. "It took a couple of days to build friendship with him. We gave him time to adjust."

He was isolated at the Humane Society and given dog food as his first meal. "He didn't like it," Stewart said. He acted nervous and sat in the back of the cage, snapping at anyone who touched it.

Dillon thinks Coty skipped his first meal out of anxiety. After three days at the Humane Society, he was walking up to the front of cage and taking food out of bags. He likes apricots and raisins and took peanuts but didn't seem to like them.

"The whole entire thing is interesting because we'd never seen one," Dillon said.

But the Humane Society didn't have a good place to keep Coty, so they called Deer Ridge Animal Hospital.

"We don't have a place for him except in a large, wire dog carrier," Dillon said. "He needs space. He can't be caged all day. [Deer Ridge] were the first veterinarian we called that isn't already fostering animals, and they said yes."

Coty is on a standard rabies watch at Deer Ridge Animal Hospital until Monday. It is a typical 10-day watch. Although his canine teeth and claws were removed, he is not a domesticated animal.

Karen Fieser, Deer Ridge veterinarian, said he did bite a handler, which is not uncommon. "He's not vicious," she said. "He's inquisitive and sensitive."

Coty's menu at Deer Ridge includes mostly fruit. He has been given grapes, cantaloupe, mangoes, meal worms and raw or boiled eggs.

Fieser said it was a treat to see something different.

Deer Ridge technician said Terri Degenhardt she is optimistic that Coty will get a good home soon.

"There's a rescue group and two zoos, one in Busch Gardens and one in Texas, who are interested.

"The next step is they will come out to take a look at him. The Texas Zoo in Fort Worth trains them for shows," she said.

The coatimundi is an omnivore; its diet consists mainly of ground litter in invertebrates and fruit.

Predation on vertebrates is rare. They face unregulated hunting and the serious threat of environmental destruction in Central and South America.

Coatimundis are small, curious and intelligent animals.

Donations for Coty's upkeep are being sought. Contact Deer Ridge Animal Hospital at 243-3200 or the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri at 334-5837.

335-6611, extension 133

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