Paul and Joyce Berquist
© 2007 Paul and Joyce Berquist
The ringtail (Bassariscus astutus) has many identifying features. The problem may be seeing one in order to identify it! The have a long tail with alternating bands of white and black fur. They have large eyes surrounded by white rings of fur, large rounded ears, short legs and a long grayish colored body.
Ringtail are excellent climbers capable of ascending vertical walls, trees, rocky cliffs and even cacti. They can rotate their hind feet 180 degrees, giving them a good grip for descending those same structures. They have excellent eyesight as well as hearing, both helpful adaptations for a nocturnal animal.
The ringtail prefers to live in rocky habitats associated with water. These areas can include riparian canyons, caves, and mine shafts.
Ringtails can be found from southwestern Oregon, south through California, southern Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, eastern Kansas, Baja California and northern Mexico.
Ringtails are doing just fine in the wild and have no special conservation status.
Ringtails are omnivores which means they will eat just about anything if it the right size. Some of their food choices are fruit, insects, lizards, snakes, small mammals such as mice, woodrat's, squirrels, as well as birds and bird eggs.
Ringtail predators include great horned owls, bobcats and coyotes.
In the wild a ringtail will live around 6-9 years. They live much longer in captivity.
They weigh about 1-2 pounds and are 24 inches in length (including the tail).
In August 1986 the ringtail became the State Mammal of Arizona.
Ringtail are sometimes wrongly called ringtail-cats or miners cats. They are not related to cats at all. Their relatives include the coati and the racoon.