Two new ringtail babies arrive, right on schedule

August 22, 2016 - 5:09pm

First-time mom Violet is raising a pair of kits with striped tails and Yoda-like ears

Two new ringtail babies, with long striped tails and Yoda-like ears, have arrived at the Oregon Zoo's Great Northwest area. The sprightly 2-month-old members of the raccoon family were born June 21 and are quite active at night, said senior North America keeper Julie Christie.

The kits were born mostly hairless, Christie said, but now bear the same raccoon-like patterns as their mom, Violet, who was rescued as a kit last year from the rafters of a Texas resort. Earlier this year, Violet was introduced to the male ringtail Toudle Lou — affectionately known as Toodles — and keepers say the pair hit it off right away.

The zoo was able to prep for the kits' arrival thanks to an important heads up from the zoo's Wildlife Endocrine Lab this spring. Lab scientist Dr. Candace Scarlata, who had been monitoring hormones in Violet, noted a steep, steady rise in the ringtail's progesterone — a possible sign of pregnancy.

Scarlata tipped off the zoo's animal-care team to Violet's results. This provided keepers with time to offer proper nesting choices and add some privacy panels on the "Cascade Mining Company" exhibit glass to help ensure a successful delivery for the young first-time mom.

Ringtails are an elusive, mostly nocturnal species found across dry regions of North America from Oregon to Mexico and east to Oklahoma. They often inhabit pinyon pine and juniper tree hollows, as well as rocky cliffs, crevices and canyons, lining their dens with moss, leaves or grass.

As Violet's rafter-origin attests, the species also has a knack for setting up camp in human-made buildings. Miners of the 1800s, in fact, intentionally kept ringtails in their camps to act as mousers, earning them the nickname "miner's cats."

As the two new kits get older and bolder, keepers will be peeling back the privacy panels, but for now the band-tailed family is only infrequently on public view. Lucky visitors may spot them through the gaps, Christie said, but it will be tricky. After all, ringtails prefer the night, and the family tends to hole up in one of their many nest boxes during the day.