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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 March, 2004, 13:46 GMT
Raccoon-like animal found in UK
Coati are native to the Americas
An unlikely immigrant has found its way into woodland in Cumbria.

Wildlife experts say a coati, an animal usually found in South America and the south western United States, has been sighted in the Lake District.

The Wildlife Trust said the animal - a member of the raccoon family - was spotted by a couple out walking.

A trust spokesman said the animal is likely to have escaped, but was unsure if it could survive in the wild.

The couple came face-to-face with the animal, which is the size of a fox, while walking around Sizergh Castle, South Lakeland.

It is the fourth sighting of a coati in the past 12 months, the Cumbria Wildlife Trust said.

Family groups

Senior conservation officer Joe Murphy said: "It must have escaped from somewhere because it is a New World animal usually found in the Americas.

"There is possibly more than one coati in South Lakeland at the moment.

"They usually live in big family groups but these sightings were of individuals.

"I wouldn't like to guess at whether they could survive long or not, but they obviously seem to able to cope with some quite cold weather and lean times over the winter."

Coati usually live in dense forests and grasslands and eat insects, snails, small reptiles, rodents, fruit and nuts.

The are an omnivorous member of the raccoon family with a long mobile snout, reddish fur and ringed tail.

Females live in highly social groups whilst males are solitary. They have a lifespan of about seven years, although it is uncertain how old the Cumbria animal is or whether it was male of female.

They are active during the day, foraging for food in leaf-litter and are excellent climbers.

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