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A 'honey bear' was spotted in Washington state, 2000 miles north of its habitat

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Dry and dusty, the East Selah Creek rest area outside of Yakima, Wash., is the last place you'd expect to see a kinkajou. I can already hear you saying a kink-a-what? Also known as honey bears, kinkajous are small mammals that live in the rainforests of Mexico and Central and South America. They have prehensile tails and can grasp objects. It looks kind of like a raccoon crossed with a monkey and maybe a groundhog.

Nobody knows for sure how this kinkajou made its way to the sage brush field plains 2,000 miles north of its natural habitat. But one was found at the rest stop on Monday. Kinkajous are often sold as exotic pets, and Washington state authorities think this one was either left by someone or it escaped. The kinkajou is still a little thin, but in good health. Right now it's at Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Wash., until he finds a permanent home.

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Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.