Ringtail

Bassariscus astutus

Ringtails live in semi-arid oak forests, pinyon pine or juniper woodlands, conifer forests, deserts and other dry, rocky habitats in Mexico, north to California and Oregon and throughout the American Southwest to Texas and northeast to Oklahoma and Kansas. They are primarily carnivorous.

Ringtails are not cats, but are related to raccoons. Their scientific name adds to the confusion: bassar means fox; isc means little; astutus means clever: clever little fox. Ringtails are also called miner's cats because in mining camps they were often used as mousers. Another common name, cacomistle, comes from the Nahuatl word tlacomiztli, meaning "half–mountain lion."

Ringtail behavior and facts

  • The ringtail is named for its long, bushy tail with 14 to 16 black and white bands.
  • They are cat-sized, with a foxlike face and elongated body. They are mostly yellowish to dark brown with a whitish underside. Large eyes are ringed with white fur.
  • Ringtails are nocturnal and solitary, except during mating season. They hunt by pouncing on prey such as small mammals, insects and birds. They also eat fruit and berries.
  • Ringtails make dens in rock crevices, lining them with moss, leaves or grass.
  • Semi-retractable claws make them excellent climbers.
  • Predators include great horned owls, bobcats, raccoons and coyotes.
  • Ringtails squeak, chitter, grunt, growl and hiss.

From birth to death

  • Mating: February to June
  • Gestation: 52 days
  • Litters: two to three young
  • Lifespan: eight to 14 years

Vital statistics

  • Length: 24 to 32 inches with a 12- to 17-inch tail.
  • Weight: 30 to 39 ounces

Status

Not listed

Ringtails, the Oregon Zoo and you

At the zoo, ringtails live in the Cascade Stream and Pond exhibit.