The Cozumel raccoon is a critically endangered species native to Cozumel Island. Their fur over the upper body is buff-grey ticked with occasional black hairs. 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.
Cozumel raccoons are native to Cozumel Island, lying off the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. 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. However, they have also been captured in semi-evergreen forests and agricultural lands surrounding these preferred habitats, and in the Punta Sur ecological park at the south end of the island.
Cozumel raccoons are primarily nocturnal and solitary animals, but may sometimes form family groups possibly consisting of the mother and cubs. The raccoons live in densities of about 17-27 individuals per km2. and inhabit home ranges of around 67 hectares (170 acres) on average. However, individuals seem to be not territorial, and their close relative, the Common raccoon, can exist at very high densities when food is abundant. Cozumel raccoons shelter in dens. They are quite good climbers and their rear feet can rotate 180 degrees, which allows them to descend from trees head-first. These animals use different ways of communication. They usually use their tactile senses more often than other animals. They have sensitive forepaws and use them to hold and interpret food or other objects. Raccoons use their keen sense of smell to detect the presence of predators or when hunting their prey. Scent glands are used to distinguish individuals from their conspecifics. Raccoons also communicate with the help of growls, hisses, purrs, whimpers, whinnies, snarls, and screams.
Cozumel raccoons are omnivores and tend to have a seasonal diet. During the wet season, fruit and vegetation are more abundant and become a large portion of their diet. Then in the dry season, they begin to consume more of the crabs, insects, lizards, crayfish, frogs and other vertebrates and invertebrates.
Cozumel raccoons have a polygynandrous (promiscuous) mating system in which both males and females have multiple partners. They breed during September and November. Females usually give birth to 2-5 cubs after the gestation period that lasts around 63-65 days. Cubs weigh around 60-75 grams at birth and are cared for by the mother alone. The young are weaned at around 16 weeks after birth and become independent when they are 10 months old. Young females generally become reproductively mature after 1 year of age, while males attain reproductive maturity when they are 2 years old.
Island carnivores at the top of the food chain often become extinct soon after the arrival of humans. The main danger to Cozumel raccoons comes from the development of Cozumel island due to the tourism industry. 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. There are no laws protecting the raccoons and also no land set aside for them. Newer threats to their survival that have been researched in recent years are diseases and parasites. Cozumel has a population of feral cats and domestic cats and dogs that can transmit diseases to the raccoons. Cozumel raccoons also suffer greatly from hurricanes that cause drastic population decline.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of Cozumel raccoons is around 192 mature individuals. This species’ numbers are decreasing and it is currently classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List.
Cozumel raccoons stay near the water where crabs are abundant as crabs comprise more than half the food they eat. This means that these animals may impact the population of their main prey to a large extent.