The total population of the pygmy raccoon is thought to number fewer than 250 mature individuals, which are divided into small, isolated subpopulations (1) (5) (8) (11). The pygmy raccoon is also restricted to just one island, where it appears to be limited to a few main coastal areas, despite apparently suitable habitat elsewhere (5) (8) (11). The remaining population has only limited genetic variability (8) (9).
One of the main threats to the pygmy raccoon is introduced species. Introduced carnivores such as domestic dogs and cats not only threaten the pygmy raccoon directly through predation and competition (1) (5) (11) (12), but also transmit diseases and parasites, including mange, rabies, canine distemper and the parasite Toxoplasma gondii (1) (2) (5) (6) (12). The boa constrictor (Boa constrictor), another potential predator, has also been introduced to Cozumel and is now well established there (13). The introduction of northern raccoons as pets brings further threats of disease transmission and potential hybridisation with the pygmy raccoon (1) (5) (8) (12).
The pygmy raccoon is also under threat from rapid tourist development on Cozumel. Although the island is still relatively well preserved, the small area of mangrove habitat preferred by the pygmy raccoon coincides with the coastal areas where most tourist development is taking place (1) (3) (5) (8) (12). Road building is also further fragmenting the pygmy raccoon’s habitat, as well as increasing the threat of road kill and aiding in the dispersal of introduced species (1) (5).
Hurricanes pose a significant threat to the pygmy raccoon, particularly in light of its already limited range and tiny population (1) (5) (8) (11) (12). The threat from hurricanes is only likely to increase in future, as extreme weather events are predicted to increase in frequency and severity due to climate change (1). Further threats to the pygmy raccoon include the overexploitation of freshwater on the island and disturbance from the expanding human population (5) (12). This species may also be hunted or collected as a pet, although this is not thought to be a major threat at present (1) (5) (12).