Looking like a cross between a monkey, a kangaroo, and a raccoon, kinkajous are a rare sight in South Florida. They are also not a thing you expect to wake up to. An elderly woman in Miami said she was jerked awake on Monday night when she felt tiny hands caressing her face. When she opened her eyes, she found a two-foot-long kinkajou on her chest.
“The lady is sound asleep and she feels something on her chest and she slowly wakes up, and realizes that there’s an animal curled up sleeping on her chest,” veterinarian Don Harris told CBS Miami. “I don’t know, I guess her first impression was it might be a cat, but when they both got a look at each other, they both freaked out. The lady screamed, the kinkajou went into her attic.”
A family friend, Cathy Moghari, came over to help the woman get the animal out of her attic. Moghari said she identified the exotic animal and was able to lure it out by playing kinkajou calls from a YouTube video on her phone. Once out of the attic, she managed to capture it and transport the animal to Harris’ office.
“I had to tranquilize her,” Harris told KTLA. “Because this animal was scared and could have struck back with a bad bite.”
Kinkajous are described as docile, intelligent creatures. They are strictly nocturnal and behave much like raccoons in the wild, eating mainly fruit and insects. Native to South America, these small rainforest mammals are popular as exotic pets and there have been many recorded instances of them escaping from their Florida owners, as is the case here. The animal apparently belonged to a man named Ray Fernandez and escaped while it was staying with some of his relatives.
“I left food out and a trap but I never found her. She was pretty far from where she escaped,” Fernandez said after retrieving her from the vet’s office on Wednesday.
Harris said he sees a few cases of escaped kinkajous every year. Florida has long grappled with the problem of exotic pets becoming invasive species, especially due to the state’s tropical climate. In recent decades animals like pythons, lionfish, and even Nile monitor lizards have sprung up in the wild, establishing populations and generally proving to be nuisances. Experts do not seem too worried about kinkajous, however. The animal is not considered dangerous and those raised in captivity are relatively tame, although they can still pack a mean bite.