The cacomistle is a shy arboreal relative of the raccoon. Its body consists of dark brown and grey fur, which stands as a stark contrast to the black and white striped tail. The tail stripes are the most defined near the animal's posterior end and gradually fade to a solid black at the end of the tail. The cacomistle is often confused with its cousin the Ring-tailed cat because of the similarity of their appearance, but unlike the Ring-tail cat, the cacomistle does not have retractable claws. The cacomistle can also be identified by its faded tail and the observation of ears that come to a point.
Cacomistles are found in North America and Central America, from south-central Mexico to Panama. They inhabit a wide variety of different forest ecosystems and prefer wet, tropical, evergreen woodlands and mountain forests; however, seasonally they will venture into drier deciduous forests. In Mexico, these animals tend to avoid oak forests, secondary forests, and overgrown pastures, but in Costa Rica, they favor those exact habitats.
Cacomistles are quite solitary and thus spread themselves out; each individual has a home range of at least 20 hectares (an area equivalent to 20 sports fields). They are typically seen in the middle and upper levels of the canopy and rarely come down to the ground. Cacomistles are nocturnal and feed at night. These are generally quiet animals but when threatened they will bark, snarl or scream. They will also use their loud calls in order to claim territorial boundaries. Young cacomistles communicate with the help of metallic squeaks.
Cacomistles mate in spring and this is the only time the males and the females interact with each other. After the gestation period that lasts approximately 2 months, the female gives birth to a single cub. The young is born blind and open its eyes at 34 days. When the cub is 3 months old it is weaned, and then taught hunting and survival skills by its mother before going off to develop its own territory.
Cacomistles are threatened by the deforestation and fragmentation of their native habitat. In Mexico and Honduras, they are also hunted for fur and for meat.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the cacomistle total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.