It’s the first new species discovered in 35 years

By Rosie Lai
Updated August 15, 2013 05:25 PM

We know the last thing you want to hold is that black and white fiend called a raccoon that rummages through your trash at night. But what if we told you there’s a cuter, cuddlier version of it?

Well, start spreading your arms.

Researchers have discovered a new species of mammal called the olinguito, a teddy bear-faced creature that’s most similar to a dog, cat or bear, reports the Associated Press. Though new species are regularly discovered, this kind of find, a mammal, is far rarer and hasn’t happened in about 35 years.

The raccoon-sized animals travel by jumping from tree to tree in the forests of Ecuador and Colombia at night – but that’s not the reason why they haven’t been identified earlier.

An olinguito named Ringerl, who has been living in the Smithsonian-run Washington, D.C., National Zoo for a year, was mistaken for a sister species called the olingo.

“It’s been kind of hiding in plain sight for a long time,” Kristofer Helgen, the Smithsonian’s curator of mammals, tells the AP.

After Ringerl refused to mate with other olingos, Helgen and his team departed on a 2006 research mission to South America, where he found more of the fruit-eating, 2-lb. critters.

“When we went to the field, we found it in the very first night,” said Roland Kays, the study co-author from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. “It was almost like it was waiting for us.”