Mystery surrounds how a creature native to the jungles of South America ended up pottering around a garden in a village in Co Cork.
A householder could have been forgiven for rubbing his eyes when he looked out his patio door to see an unexpected guest nosing around his shrubbery.
John Hall said that, when he looked out into his garden in Ballygarvan last Sunday morning, he initially thought it was a badger, until he noticed the creature’s tail and took a picture of it on his mobile phone.
Unaware what the creature was he posted an image on his Facebook page and was quickly informed that it was a ringtailed coatimundi.
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“I spotted him in the garden at around 11am,” said John. “I then followed him as he headed down the hill in the direction of Bridgies Bar before he hopped into an adjacent field when a car approached.”
The species, closely related to racoons, is native to South America.
An adult coatimundi can weigh up to 7.2kg and be more than 3.5ft long, half of that being its tail.
“I think this guy was around the three-foot mark,” said John, adding that it seemed to be very healthy and well-fed.
“He was in very good nick as far as I could tell. He wasn’t afraid of humans either. He didn’t take off when I walked into the garden.
The animal is widespread in tropical and subtropical South America.
They are omnivorous and primarily eat fruit, invertebrates, other small animals, and bird eggs.
They also search for small animal prey by turning over rocks on the ground or ripping open logs with their claws.
In the wild, their predators include foxes, jaguars, and domestic dogs.
“I suspect somebody bought him as an exotic pet,” said John. “Either he got too big for them to handle and was let go or he escaped from somebody’s house.”
The ringtailed coatimundi is not the only native South American animal to be spotted in Cork.
In the past two years, coypus, a large rat-like creature, have been identified in the River Lee near the Lee Fields.
It is believed they are also in the Curraheen river and have established a breeding population in the area.
There have also been unconfirmed sightings of them in the river Bride at Blackpool.
The OPW has trapped a number of them in the past few months.
They can weigh between 5kg and 9kg and measure as long as a metre from the head to the tip of the long tail.
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