Sunday, August 16, 2015
Kinkajou spotted in Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Posted: Friday, August 14, 2015 4:17 pm | Updated: 6:43 pm, Fri Aug 14, 2015.
A photographer made an unusual find near the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Center on Thursday: a tropical animal called a kinkajou lounging in a tree.
Not knowing what it was, lensman Cesar Castillo on Friday sent an email out to the birding community via the NYSBirds-L listserv, with a link to the photo he took and had posted to Flickr.
“Hi all,” Castillo wrote. “Yesterday I found this mammal resting at the top of trees to the left of the blind at Big John's Pond. It seems to be an escaped or released illegal pet. Does anyone have any idea what it could be?”
Though the kinkajou is not a bird, it didn’t take long for the naturalists on the list to identify the animal, which is native to Central America and the northern half of South America.
According to some emails that were forwarded to the Queens Chronicle, it was Paul Sweet, the bird collections manager for the American Museum of Natural History, who first identified the critter as a kinkajou, or possibly a similar animal called an olingo.
Gabriel Willow, a naturalist, educator and guide with NYC Audubon who lives in Brooklyn, agreed.
“Yes, Paul is correct, it appears to be either a Kinkajou or Olingo (both are neotropical cousins of raccoons and ringtails) - notice the prehensile tail, which only opossums have around our parts,” Willow said in an email. “Who would have one for a pet, and if they did, why would they toss it at a temperate wildlife refuge where it surely wouldn't survive the winter?
“I hope someone can tempt it down with some bananas or something and send it to a zoo or animal rescue.
“You really never know what you'll see in NYC parks!”
Later it was determined that it must be a kinkajou because olingos do not have prehensile tails — that is, tails that can be used for grasping things, such as food or tree branches.
The spot where it was seen is northeast of the park’s visitors center, on the opposite side of Cross Bay Boulevard.
The Queens Chronicle informed volunteer wildlife rescuers Cathy and Bobby Horvath of the discovery and forwarded Castillo’s photo to them. The Horvaths operate a service called WINORR, Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation, in North Massapequa, LI. Bobby Horvath is a firefighter with the FDNY, and the couple often takes in wild animals found in the city.
Cathy Horvath said the animal must have been dumped there, and that she and her husband would go check it out and determine how best to capture it. And she offered words of caution to anyone who might come across the kinkajou.
“They’re a little bit fresh,” she said. “If they’re not tame, they’re a little bit bitey. They look soft and cuddly, but they can mess you up.”
Castillo could not immediately be reached for further information about what he saw the animal doing or if he had any interaction with it.
The kinkajou is a nocturnal animal that eats fruit and sometimes insects and, possibly, birds’ eggs and small vertebrates, according to Wikipedia and its sources. Also known as honey bears, they are mostly active between dusk and midnight and then again an hour before dawn.
“During daylight hours, kinkajous sleep in tree hollows or in shaded tangles of leaves, avoiding direct sunlight,” Wikipedia says, possibly reflecting just what Castillo photographed.
This article was updated to say that Cathy and Bobby Horvath will in fact seek out the kinkajou, and to give a little more information on the area where it was seen.