Babisuri, Bandtailed cat, Bassarisk, Cacomistle, Cacomixtle, Cat squirrel, Civet cat, Coon cat, Coon fox, Miner’s cat cated cat, Ring-tailed cat

Bassariscus astutus
Population size
Life Span
7-16 years
kg lbs 
cm inch 

The ringtail (Bassariscus astutus) is a member of the raccoon family native to arid regions of North America. It is the state mammal of Arizona.


The ringtail is black to dark brown in color with pale underparts. It has a pointed muzzle with long whiskers, similar to that of a fox and its body resembles that of a cat. The ringtailed's face resembles a mask as dark brown and black hair surrounds its eyes. These animals have a long black and white "ringed" tail with 14-16 stripes, which is about the same length as their body. Ringtails have large eyes and upright ears that make it easier for them to navigate and forage in the dark. Adept climbers, they use their long tails for balance. The rings on their tail can also act as a distraction for predators. The white rings act as a target, so when the tail rather than the body is caught, the ringtail has a greater chance of escaping. The claws are short, straight, and semi-retractable, well-suited for climbing. The ankle joint is flexible and is able to rotate over 180 degrees, making the animal an agile climber. The long tail provides balance for negotiating narrow ledges and limbs, even allowing individuals to reverse directions by performing a cartwheel. Ringtails also can ascend narrow passages by stemming (pressing all feet on one wall and their back against the other or pressing both right feet on one wall and both left feet on the other), and wider cracks or openings by ricocheting between the walls.




The ringtail is widespread and common across southern North America and Mexico. It can be found in Oaxaca in southern Mexico and the desert area of Baja California, and also on the islands of Tiburón, Espíritu Santo, and San José in the Gulf of California. Ringtails also occur throughout the southwestern United States, from California and Oregon to Texas. They inhabit a range of habitats, such as semi-arid oak forests, juniper and pinyon pine forest, conifer forest, montane (forests in mountains) chaparral (scrub habitat with mostly thorny, evergreen shrubs), and desert. Ringtails also prefer rocky habitats associated with water, such as riparian canyons, caves, or mine shafts. They adapt well also to disturbed areas and often are found inside buildings.

Ringtail habitat map
Ringtail habitat map
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Habits and Lifestyle

A ringtail is mostly active at night and sometimes at dusk. It spends much of its time foraging for food. After it has eaten, it grooms itself sitting on its haunches in the manner of a cat. It is a very good climber and has several physical locomotory and behavioral adaptations. Ringtails are able to maneuver agilely and quickly among ledges and cliffs by ricocheting from one wall to the other. This species is solitary apart from during the mating season. Its home range can be as large as 136 ha depending on the availability of cover and food. Males generally have bigger home ranges than females. Home ranges of ringtails of the same gender do not overlap. These animals use a variety of vocalizations. Adults are able to emit an explosive bark, a high-pitched, long call, and a piercing scream. Infants emit metallic chirps, whimpers, and squeaks. Scent marking is another important type of communication for this species.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Ringtails are omnivores, eating both animal and plant material. They eat small rodents, squirrels, rabbits, insects, and even animals that are dead. They may eat juniper berries, persimmons, hackberry, prickly pear cacti, acorns, and other fruits and berries.

Mating Habits

51-54 days
1-4 cubs
8-10 weeks

The mating system of this species is not known. Mating usually takes place from February to May, with most births taking place in May or June, following a gestation of 51 to 54 days. Litters typically consist of one to four babies. Young are born inside a den and at birth are helpless, and their eyes do not open until around 31 to 34 days. The young ringtails start to eat solid food at around seven weeks old and are weaned at eight to ten weeks, beginning to forage with their mothers at about two months old. Fathers are sometimes tolerated and they may play with their young as they get older. Ringtails reach reproductive maturity around 10 months of age.


Population threats

A widespread and common species that will adapt well to disturbed areas, ringtails are not currently thought to be at great risk of extinction. The major threat is that it is trapped legally for fur in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Texas. It is also caught incidentally in some areas in traps that are set for other furred species such as raccoons and foxes. Other potential threats are collisions with vehicles and infectious diseases like toxoplasmosis, rabies, and canine parvovirus transmitted via feral cats and dogs.

Population number

According to IUCN, ringtail is common and widely distributed throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.

Ecological niche

Ringtails play an important role in their ecosystem as a food source for larger predators, influencing the populations of their own prey, and probably assisting in seed dispersal.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The name "ringtail" is from the seven or so black rings on the tail of the animal.
  • Ringtails sometimes were kept in the homes of early settlers in America and in prospectors' camps as mousers and companions, hence its name "miner's cat." They are said to make reasonably good pets if they are caught while young.
  • In Mexico, "cacomistles" is a name that is often used for this animal, derived from the Aztec language. In Spanish, it has the meaning of "nimble thief".
  • The ringtail’s scientific name means “cunning little fox”.
  • Ringtails don't need to drink often and can survive for long periods on water derived from food alone.

Coloring Pages


1. Ringtail Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring-tailed_cat
2. Ringtail on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/41680/0

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