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Coati (Nasua nasua) Attacks on Humans: Case Report

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Coatis [including Nasua nasua, the ring-tailed coati], are medium-sized mammals widely distributed in the Americas. They are social animals, whose normal diet includes insects, fruits, and small vertebrates, and rarely prey on larger sized animals. There are, to our knowledge, no reports in the medical literature of attacks on humans. This report describes a coati attack on 2 children in their home. The children sustained deep scratches and bites. The animal may have injured the humans in a defensive strike, but motivation for attack was uncertain. Coati attacks may occur in places where there is interaction between these mammals and humans.
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CASE REPORT
Coati (Nasua nasua) Attacks on Humans: Case Report
Guilherme Canho Bittner, MD; Nelise Ritter Hans, MD; Günter Hans Neto, MD; Monique Oliveira Morais, MD;
Günter Hans Filho, MD, PhD; Vidal Haddad Jr, MD, PhD
From the School of Medicine, Mato Grosso do Sul Federal University, Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul State, Brazil (Dr. Hans-Filho
and Dr. Bittner); University for the Development of the State and region of Pantanal, Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul State, Brazil
(Drs. Hans-Neto, Ritter-Hans and Morais); and Botucatu School of Medicine, Univ Estadual Paulista and Vital Brazil Hospital, Butantan
Institute and Post Graduate in Zoology, Biosciences Institute, São Paulo State University, São Paulo, Brazil (Dr. Haddad).
Coatis [including Nasua nasua, the ring-tailed coati], are medium-sized mammals widely distributed in
the Americas. They are social animals, whose normal diet includes insects, fruits, and small vertebrates,
and rarely prey on larger sized animals. There are, to our knowledge, no reports in the medical literature
of attacks on humans. This report describes a coati attack on 2 children in their home. The children
sustained deep scratches and bites. The animal may have injured the humans in a defensive strike, but
motivation for attack was uncertain. Coati attacks may occur in places where there is interaction
between these mammals and humans.
Key words: coati, Nasua nasua, wild animal attacks, predation, human, bites and stings
Introduction
Coatis (in the indigenous Brazilian Tupi language,
“pointed nose”) are gregarious carnivores and members
of the Procyonidae family, the same as the raccoons.
There are 3 species, all confined to the Americas: Nasua
narica,
1
found from Northern Colombia to Southern
Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas; Nasua (or Nasuella)
olive,
2
which occurs in the Andes Ridges of Venezuela,
Colombia, and Ecuador, and Nasua nasua,
1
the ring-
tailed coati, which is widely distributed in South Amer-
ica, occurring in Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suri-
name, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and
Brazil.
3–8
Coatis are average size animals, weighing between 2.5
and 10 kg, measuring 40 to 65 cm in length with a tail of
about 50 cm, and males are larger than females.
9,10
They
have an enlarged head ending in a long narrow pro-
truding, pointed, and very mobile snout. Color varies
depending on distribution area, and its tail has brighter
color rings than the rest of its coat.
11
The forelimbs are
shorter than the hind limbs and the ends of the legs are
dark with well-developed sharp claws (Figure 1). Co-
atis are diurnal and semiarboreal animals. They are
sociable and can live in bands of up to 30 individu-
als,
11
consisting of adult females (over 2 years) and
young individuals of both sexes.
Adult males are solitary and only join the groups
during the mating season, which lasts just under a
month.
12–14
Reproduction is synchronous throughout the
population,
15
allowing social activities to be maintained
which are of great importance for youngster learning.
16
Coati diet includes mainly insects, their larvae, and other
arthropods. They also consume a variety of fruits, brome-
liads, and occasionally small vertebrates.
4,9,11,14,15,17–20
However, there are descriptions of them consuming greater
mammals such as the capuchin monkey (Cebus nigritus),
the pigmy Brocket deer (Mazama nana), the paca (Cunic-
ulus paca), and the coypu or nutria (Myocastor coypus),
suggesting a strong potential for predation.
20
There are also
records of a necrophagous diet.
21
In areas of anthropogenic
influence they are often observed feeding on garbage.
22
They can also be regarded as seed dispersers as they con-
sume fruits and defecate intact seeds.
19,22,23
In the Brazilian Pantanal, coatis are found naturally
infected with different Trypanosoma cruzi populations,
highlighting the importance of this species in the main-
tenance of different transmission cycles.
24
The species is
a natural host for the “star tick” (Amblyomma cajen-
nense), the main reservoir of Rickettsia rickettsii, the
cause of Brazilian spotted fever.
25
They also participate
Corresponding author: Vidal Haddad Jr, MD, PhD, Departamento de
Dermatologia, Faculdade de Medicina de Botucatu, Universidade Es-
tadual Paulista, Caixa Postal 557, 18618-000 Botucatu, São Paulo,
Brazil (e-mail: haddadjr@fmb.unesp.br).
WILDERNESS & ENVIRONMENTAL MEDICINE, 21, 349–352 (2010)
Author's personal copy
in the enzootic cycle of Leishmania shawi, an agent of
mucocutaneous leishmaniasis,
26
and are a described but
little known reservoir for the rabies virus.
27
With forest
fragmentation, the extinction of top predators can lead to
an increased density of medium size species with gener-
alists such as coatis (mesopredators), which may in turn
cause drastic changes in small vertebrate communi-
ties
28–33
and allow these animals to have increased con-
tact with humans and urban environments.
Summary of the cases
A 9-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl, both inhabitants
of the Indian village of Jaguapirú, Dourados, Mato
Grosso do Sul State, Brazil, were victims of an attack by
a coati at 7:30 a.m. on April 23, 2010 while they slept.
The residence, made of concrete, is located in a rural area
near a highway and the motivation for attack was uncer-
tain.
Lesions in the male patient were characterized by 2
deep incised wounds with approximately 5 cm of ex-
posed subcutaneous tissue in the distal third of the ante-
rior left forearm, 3 cm on the inner left wrist, and 2 flat
wounds, the largest measuring 3 0.5 cm, in the left
arch of the lumbar region (Figure 2).
The female patient presented an irregular, triangular-
shaped laceration of approximately 3 1.5 cm, which
was moderately deep with a small flap of skin hanging on
the outside of the left knee (Figure 3).
The patients were treated by Dourados 2nd Firefight-
ing Combat Team and taken to Vila Hospital, where they
were treated with intensive washing and dressing of the
wounds, and postexposure rabies prophylaxis.
Discussion
These cases have been described due to lack of reports in
the medical literature on coati attacks, despite the ani-
mal’s wide geographic distribution and abundance.
20
The motivation for these attacks was unclear. It is inter-
esting to note that there are reports in the lay media of
attacks.
34
Those attacks were associated with the pres-
ence of food in the victims’ hands.
We suspect that the animal entered the house, was
startled when the children awakened, and attacked when
it felt threatened. The resulting lacerations were probably
caused by the animal’s claws, but the 1 circular lacera-
tion on the boy’s back resembled a bite wound. It is
possible that the attack occurred due to the presence of
Figure 1. Left, above: the coati that caused the wounds in the chil-
dren, still in the house. Below: team of firefighters providing initial aid
to victims. Note in this image the round wound in the lower back of the
boy. Right: the ring-tailed coati. Note the sharp claws.
Figure 2. The male patient presented 2 deep incised wounds with
approximately 5 cm of exposed subcutaneous tissue in the distal third
of the anterior left forearm and 3 cm on the inner left wrist.
Figure 3. The female patient presented an irregular triangular-shaped
laceration of approximately 3 1.5 cm, moderately deep with a small
flap of hanging skin on the outside of the left knee.
350 Haddad et al
Author's personal copy
food in the home or even as a possible predatory attack
given that there are reports of coatis attacking relatively
large animals such as deer.
Coatis can cause serious injuries to humans with their
long claws, sharp teeth, and strong jaw muscles.
35
While
the injuries were not severe in these children, this may be
due to the rapid intervention by the victims’ family.
Attacks by coatis, although not reported in the medical
literature, appear to occur for several reasons in places
where there is interaction between them and humans. It
is important to be aware of the risks associated with
coatis as they are common and increasingly present in
areas frequented by people.
Acknowledgments
The authors thank the Dourados 2nd Firefighting Combat
Team, Mato Grosso do Sul State, especially soldier Éden
Nascimento da Silva from the Social Communication
Sector, and Ricardo Franchim, from the Lauro de Souza
Lima Institute, Bauru, São Paulo State.
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There are plenty of outdoor activities to take part in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. One great option for good physical activity is the Tijuca National Park (TNP). The 4.2 km (and 400m ascent) between the Portào dos Macacos and Mesa do Imperador in the TNP is almost an open air fitness center. I have been walking there since January 2011 for physical activity purpose and I could see a rich wildlife. But from my point of view of specialist in Infectious and Parasitic Diseases I noted that some animals observed could be source of diseases for athletes training there. Traumatic injuries are better documented and intervention strategies have been successful in reducing injuries. This has not been the case for non-traumatic injuries. The aim of this paper is to warn about the potential risks for infectious diseases transmitted by wild animals during physical activity in the TNP. Capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) can be seen often and all over the way. Non-human primates are reservoirs of various zoonosis, including rabies. Bothrops and Micrurus snakes were also seen on the road. Immobilization of the affected limb and application of a pressure bandage that does not restrict blood flow are recommended first-aid measures. Other animals seen were opossum, coati and paca that may be reservoirs for Trypanosoma cruzi, Rickettsia rickettsii and Echinococcus vogeli. Zoonotic infections may occur during outdoor activities and to reduce the risk of illness or injury while exercising, knowledge of potential risks before engaging in these activities is important.
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We determined the diet of the brown-nosed coati (Nasua nasua) in an urban semideciduous forest fragment in southeastern Brazil. Coati feces were collected weekly for 3 years. The 226 fecal samples included plant parts (85.4%), insects (75.7%), millipedes (53.9%), fruits (48.7%), spiders (33.6%), organic waste (9.7%), vertebrates (9.3%), and gastropods (2.6%). More spiders and millipedes were consumed during the wet season, and more fruits were consumed in the dry season. The consumption of vertebrates, fruits, and millipedes differed among different years. The monthly consumption of spiders and millipedes was positively correlated with rainfall. The consumption of fruits was negatively correlated with the consumption of millipedes and insects. Fruits were an important resource during periods of arthropod scarcity. Coatis ingested and defecated intact seeds of 49 plant species, indicating that they can be important seed dispersers. The consumption of vertebrates was occasional and varied.
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The white-nosed coati, Nasua narica, is a common Neotropical carnivore with a social structure of band-living adult females and solitary adult males. A coati population on Barro Colorado Island, Panama, was studied over a four-year period by mark-recapture, radiotelemetry, and direct observation of habituated individuals. The population density was approximately 51.5 individuals/km2 and the sex ratio was I:l. Band size varied from six to 26 individuals (mean = 15.3) with extensive fluctuation within and between years. Mean foraging group size was smaller (7.2 individuals) than population group size, and fluctuated with food availability, synchronous parturition, and the emigration of mature males. Mean home-range size of six bands was 0.33 km2, arid ranges of adjacent bands overlapped from 0-66%. One band fissioned during the study; however, the resulting hands did not disperse from the original home range. Seven adult males had a mean home range size of 0.37 km2, each extensively overlapping the home ranges of several other males. Observations of 10 adult males whose natal bands were known indicate that when males disperse they do not simultaneously leave the band's home range. Rather, their home ranges remain within or broadly overlapping those of their natal bands. This dispersal pattern is unusual within the order Carnivora.
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Top predators have often been persecuted because of their supposed negative effects on species of economic concern on which they feed. In some cases, however, they may actually benefit their prey through intraguild predation on other smaller predators that share the prey. In each of two representative situations, in one of which lynx were present and in the other absent, we (1) estimated gross number of rabbits taken by lynx and Egyptian mongooses (smaller predators that are themselves preyed upon by lynx; (2) simulated size-structured rabbit populations of different densities, taking into account the reproductive value of the individuals taken by predators; and (3) estimated actual rabbit densities. Numbers of rabbits taken by predators during a year were found to be between 4.8 and 9.5 times greater when lynx were not present. After a year, rabbit population growth for an initial rabbit density of 15/ha was between 12% and 22% lower when lynx were not present. For lower initial rabbit densities, the positive effect of lynx presence on rabbits was greater. Actual rabbit densities in the areas used by lynx were 2–4 times higher than in areas not used by lynx, even though these areas were similar or identical in habitat composition. These results support the suggestion that removal of top predators may sometimes have a negative effect on prey populations of human economic concern.