Procyon pygmaeus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Procyonidae

Scientific Name: Procyon pygmaeus Merriam, 1901
Common Name(s):
English Pygmy Raccoon, Cozumel Island Raccoon, Cozumel Raccoon, Cozumel Raccoon Bear
Taxonomic Notes: Placed in Procyon pygmaeus according to Merriam (1901), Goldman (1950), Hall (1981), Lazell (1981), and Helgen and Wilson (2005). Body size and cranial characters have been sufficient to consider P. pygmaeus a separate species (Merriam 1901, Goldman 1950, Jones and Lawlor 1965). Morphometric data from McFadden (2004) and García-Vasco (2005) support the suggestion that Pygmy Raccoon is a true dwarf and a separate species. Analysis of mtDNA indicates that this species is genetically distinct from the Yucatan Peninsula P. lotor (i.e., the closest congeneric populations; McFadden et al. 2008). Helgen and Wilson (2003) considered P. pygmaeus to be the only valid taxon among the insular raccoons from the Caribbean.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered C2a(ii) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-02-11
Assessor(s): Cuarón, A.D., de Grammont, P.C. & McFadden, K.
Reviewer(s): Schipper, J. & González-Maya, J.F.
Contributor(s): Gompper, M.
This species is considered to be Critically Endangered because of its small population size (confined to a single island) and population concentration: all individuals comprise only one subpopulation. Although multiple population estimates exist, the precautionary estimated typical total population size for Pygmy Raccoon in the wild is fewer than 250 mature individuals, and all research to date indicates a declining population. Although the actual number is likely to be very elastic over time (considering population fluctuations around tropical hurricanes) the overall trend is a rapid decline in mature individuals because of ongoing human encroachment (tourism, urban growth, development) into the very small remaining habitat fragments, invasive species (predators and pathogens), road expansion and the increasing magnitude and severity of hurricanes. Following is the rationale for Critically Endangered under C2a(ii)b:

Criterion C: small population size and decline
Based on estimates of population size including juveniles (323-955), and  an estimate that 59% of the population comprises mature individuals, the number of the latter is likely to range from 192 to 567. Following the precautionary principle by using the lower limit, the number of mature individuals is many fewer than 250.

C2a(ii): a continuing decline in the population size because of habitat loss and the effects of introduced species, with at least 90% of mature individuals in one subpopulation
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Pygmy Raccoon is confined to Cozumel Island (189 square miles; 488 km²) off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico (Cuarón et al. 2004). The entire range lies between sea level and 20 m a.s.l.
Countries occurrence:
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:104Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:526
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):NoExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:1Continuing decline in number of locations:No
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Upper elevation limit (metres):20
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:All individuals comprise a single subpopulation. The total subpopulation estimate for P. pygmaeus, including juveniles, ranges from 323 (McFadden 2004) to 955 (Copa-Alvaro 2007). Considering that 59.4% of captured individuals are adults (McFadden and Mairi 2013), then the estimated number of mature individuals ranges from 192 to 567. During 2006, a total of 105 different known individuals, including juveniles, was caught, indicating a total population of at least this number (Copa-Alvaro 2007). 

Density estimates vary between sites and years, and range from 12.4 to 112 individuals/km² (McFadden 2004, Copa-Alvaro 2007).

Male-female ratios are fairly balanced: McFadden et al. (2010) conducted a subsample survey at two sites and of the total 96 Pygmy Raccoons captured, there were 47 males and 49 females. However García-Vasco (2005) found the proportion lightly skewed to females, but not significantly different from 1:1.

The species is severely affected by hurricanes and the population size fluctuates around these events. Because total population size is already severely depressed by human activities, it is increasingly difficult for the species to recover following these natural disasters. After major hurricanes, Pygmy Raccoon density can decline at a particular site by as much as 60% and the proportion of juveniles in the population can diminish significantly (Copa-Alvaro 2007). The impact of hurricanes might vary between regions or vegetation types on the island (Copa-Alvaro 2007).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:192Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:1Continuing decline in subpopulations:No
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:Yes

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Information on the ecology of Pygmy Raccoon has been summarized in Cuarón et al. (2004), McFadden (2004), and de Villa-Meza et al. (2011). Pygmy Raccoon prefers mangrove stands and sandy areas, but it is also found in semi-evergreen and sub-deciduous tropical forests and agricultural areas. Abundance varies considerable across vegetation types. Most of the population lives in the coastal areas of the island, and a large proportion of the central part of the island is uninhabited or has only a very low density. Pygmy Raccoon may inhabit areas near human settlements, and/or paved and unpaved roads (Cuarón et al. 2004, McFadden 2004, García-Vasco 2005, Copa-Alvaro 2007).

Pygmy Raccoon is mainly nocturnal, although it is not uncommon to see it during daylight (Cuarón et al. 2004, García-Vasco 2005). Generally it is solitary, but sometimes forms family groups (Jones and Lawlor 1965, Cuarón et al. 2004). McFadden and Meiri (2013) concluded that dwarfism in the Pygmy Raccoon may be an insular adaptation to the fewer resources found on Cozumel Island compared with the mainland.

It is omnivorous, with a preference for crabs followed by fruits, insects, crayfish, and small vertebrates (McFadden et al. 2006). The relevance of the different food items varies strongly between seasons and sites, and following major changes in habitat quality because of hurricanes (McFadden et al. 2006).

The Pygmy Raccoon is particularly vulnerable to introduced pathogens and diseases such as mange, rabies and dog distemper from exotic animals (Cuarón et al. 2004, McFadden 2004, Mena 2007). The parasites Eimeria nutalli, Placoconus lotoris, Capillaria procyonis, a Physaloptera sp., a mite in the family Listrophoridae, and a trematode in the family Heterophyidae have been collected from P. pygmaeus (McFadden et al. 2005). The identification of Toxoplasma gondii in some Pygmy Raccoons suggests a recent spillover from domestic cats (McFadden et al. 2005).  Pygmy Raccoon has been exposed to infectious canine hepatitis, canine distemper and feline panleukopenia viruses (McFadden et al. 2005, Mena 2007).

Pygmy Raccoons share the same mitochondrial DNA haplotypes, suggesting a recent population bottleneck that might be related to a founder effect (McFadden et al. 2008).
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):4.4
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: For information on use and trade, see under Threats.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Cozumel Island has been substantially developed for tourism. Until about 2005, Cozumel was still relatively well-conserved, with close to 90% of the island covered by natural vegetation (Romero-Nájera 2004, Romero-Nájera et al. 2007), but the situation is deteriorating rapidly. The interior of the island is less developed, but Pygmy Raccoon is rare or absent there (Cuarón et al. 2004, García-Vasco 2005, Copa-Alvaro 2007). There is only a very small area of prime raccoon habitat and this is on the coast where most of the tourist development is taking place.

The expansion and widening of the road system is fragmenting the vegetation of the island in at least three areas (Cuarón et al. 2004, de Villa-Meza et al. 2011). The widening of roads is potentially increasing their barrier effect and exacerbating their impact on the conservation of Pygmy Raccoon and other native species (de Villa-Meza et al. 2011). Most cases of Pygmy Raccoon mortality documented since 2001 have been the result of animals being run over by cars on the island's highways (García-Vasco 2005).

Alien invasive predators, such as the snake Boa constrictor, as well as domestic and feral dogs, may have an important impact on the Pygmy Raccoon population and it is confirmed that feral dogs predate them (Martínez-Morales and Cuarón 1999, García-Vasco 2005, Bautista 2006). Additionally, introduced carnivores to the island could easily become a source of parasites and pathogens that could potentially affect negatively Pygmy Raccoon populations (Cuarón et al. 2004, McFadden et al. 2005, Mena 2007). The introduction of the closely related Northern Raccoon P. lotor (there are frequent vehicle ferries between the island and mainland), usually for pets, is a risk of genetic introgression and a potential source of parasites and pathogens (Cuarón et al. 2004).

Hurricanes are the main natural threat recognized for the Cozumel biota (Cuarón et al. 2004, Perdomo 2006, Barillas 2007, Copa-Alvaro 2007). For Pygmy Raccoon, hurricanes cause drastic population decline, reduction in the proportion of juveniles, direct injury, and facilitate pathological change (Copa-Alvaro 2007, Mena 2007). The frequency, magnitude and duration of hurricanes in the Caribbean Basin is increasing (Goldenberg et al. 2001), so they are an issue of major concern because there may be a synergistic effect with anthropogenic disturbance.

Hunting and collection of Pygmy Raccoons as pets is currently not an important threat.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Pygmy Raccoon is endemic to and legally protected in Mexico. It is included in the official Mexican list of threatened species as "En Peligro de Extinción" (SEMARNAT 2010). An island-wide ecological ordinance programme (Programa de Ordenamiento Ecologico Local) that seeks to determine the pattern of land occupation, minimising conflict and maximising consensus among stakeholders, has recently been implemented and is in the process of being officially decreed. There are initiatives underway to establish two new protected areas on Cozumel Island. An invasive alien animal control programme is underway on the island. This programme has focused primarily on urban stray dogs and cats, and it is necessary to expand it to feral dogs and cats, House Rats Rattus rattus and House Mice Mus musculus, and the snake Boa constrictor. There is work in progress for the establishment of a captive breeding programme. An environmental education programme promotes the conservation of Cozumel endemic biota. A long-term initiative for the study and conservation of Cozumel's native biota has been undertaken, promoted and sustained by a Mexican interdisciplinary multi-institutional team. Cuaron et al (2009)  summarized the conservation initiatives which have been undertaken in order to advance the status of knowledge and conservation of Cozumel Raccoon.

Citation: Cuarón, A.D., de Grammont, P.C. & McFadden, K. 2016. Procyon pygmaeus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T18267A45201913. . Downloaded on 16 October 2018.
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