The Back Yard Zoo by Jim Dunlap

Jim Dunlap     Coati mundi, jacket Tuesday, sweater Wednesday. That is all a colleague could offer when I told her I was on my way to Dallas Animal Control to pick up a new animal. I got much the same reaction when I told the rest of the staff. I assumed that the identification of this South American mammal oddity was common knowledge. Not so, raccoon relative breath!

     Around the turn of the century the coati moved into and was common throughout the southern half of Texas. He looks like a raccoon that has had all his appendages stretched to the limit. And you know how painful that can be! As an adult his total length is about four feet and half of that is tail. His body is the size of a medium dog with long legs and a pointed snout. The tail is ringed with faint black markings hidden in his ruddy brown fur. The tail is held straight up when the animal moves and is used as a balance when he climbs trees.

     His nose is impressive enough to give him the common name of hog-nosed coon. He can use it almost like a finger. It has great potential for self-cleaning. Where were we? Yes the nose helps him get under, in, and around any hole or crevice that might contain a food item. In the wild he eats insects, snails, small rodents, fruit and nuts. The previous owner called later and said Paco, neat name, loves an occasional pigeon. Never mind the rest of that and he won’t get any pigeons here!

     I think the person who purchased this animal as a pet was missing a few buttons on his remote. Like all baby animals being bottle fed this critter was adorable. After three years and numerous destructive experiences the truth was once again obvious. Wild animals never make good pets!


Jim Dunlap, jim.dunlap@pisd.edu


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