Animal of the Month
January 2022

Name:Ringtail (A.K.A. Ringtail Cat, Miner's Cats, Bassarisks)

Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Procyonidae
Genus: Bassariscus
Species: B. astutus

Size: 24-34 inches long, including tail.
Weight: 1.5-3.3 pounds.

Small and furry, slender catlike body, four legs with paws, short shout, two catlike or bat-like ears, large eyes, long and bushy tail.
Color(s): Tannish-brown, with creamy-brown or whitish underbelly; tail striped with black and white rings.
Behavior: Mostly nocturnal, solitary.
Preferred Habitat: Desert and rocky environments.
Range: Southern United States and much of Mexico
Diet: Small animals including insects, birds, lizards, frogs, and rodents; also berries and fruit.
Lifespan: About seven years in the wild.

Status: Least Concern t Concern

Some people like to spend time alone late at night. If this sounds like you, you'd totally understand the ringtail! Not to be confused with ringtail lemurs, ringtails are adorable cousins of raccoons. They are found roaming the deserts of the southwestern United States and much of Mexico.

At first glance, one might mistake a ringtail for a cat. They're active at night, have slender furry bodies, and are fantastic climbers. However, ringtails belong to the family Procyonidae, which includes raccoon, coatis and kinkajous. Ringtails spend most of their time alone in the desert, though sometimes they will pair up to groom each other. The critters are masterful climbers; they use their beautiful ringed tails to balance, and they are able to rotate their ankles 180 degrees so they can easily climb down things!

Ringtails have an eclectic diet, hunting rabbits, mice, birds, lizards, frogs, snakes and insects, among other small animals. They also love to snack on berries and fruit. Ringtails must stay on the alert when out and about, as they are preyed on by coyotes, lynxes, owls, mountain lions and hawks, to name a few. This is why the ringtail has a ringed tail-the rings make predators more likely to attack the tail, thus giving the ringtail a better chance of escape!

Not much is known about the breeding habits of ringtails. What we do know is that they mate during the spring. A mother ringtail will gestate for around 50 days before giving birth to 2-4 cubs. The cubs' eyes open after a month. The little ringtails will stay with their mother for about four months before hunting on their own.

Ringtails are currently classed as Least Concern. Though their numbers are strong, they do experience some pressure from habitat destruction and illegal pet trafficking. They once experienced population declines due to the fur trade. Because they are mostly nocturnal and live in the desert, ringtails are not often seen by humans. In fact, many people aren't even aware that ringtails exist! In the 1800s, ringtails earned the nickname "miners cats", as miners used to keep them for pets to keep mice populations down. Today, it is illegal to own a ringtail in many US states, though you can keep one in Oregon with a special permit. As with all animals, if you choose to get a ringtail as a pet, make sure it's not one taken from the wild!

To learn more about these adorable miner's cats, look up the links below!

Cool Green Science, "The Cutest US Mammal You've Probably Never Seen"-This article talks about ringtails and how to safely view them in the wild!



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