The Ringtail (Bassariscus astutus), is a mammal belonging to the raccoon family. It is also known as the ringtail cat, ring-tailed cat or miner’s cat. It is also sometimes mistakenly called the “civet cat”. It is native to arid climatic regions of North America. It is found throughout California, Colorado, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Utah and parts of northern Mexico. It is also found in the Great Basin Desert which covers most of Nevada, half of Utah, and parts of California, Idaho, Oregon and Wyoming. Its habitat is rocky, desert areas where it nests in the hollows of trees or abandoned wooden structures.
The Ringtail is beige to dark brown in color with white underparts and a flashy black and white striped tail. The tail is longer than the rest of its body. The eyes are large and purple in color. Each eye is surrounded by a patch of light fur. It is 11.75 to 16.5 inches long with a 12.25 to 17.25 inch tail. An adult Ringtail weighs about 1.75 to 3.25 pounds. It has a flexible ankle joint that it can rotate over 180 degrees. This trait makes it an agile climber. Its tail provides balance for getting around over narrow ledges and tree limbs, and even allows it to reverse directions by performing a cartwheel.
The Ringtail is nocturnal, solitary, timid, and is rarely seen. It is an omnivore and its diet consists of fruit, berries, insects, lizards, rodents, and birds. Its main predators are owls, foxes, coyotes, raccoons and bobcats. They produce a variety of sounds, including clicks and chatters that resemble other raccoons. Its call can be very loud, and is a mournful bark.
The Ringtail mates in the Springtime. Gestation is about 45-50 days, during which the male will procure food for the female. The female gives birth to 2 to 4 cubs. The cub’s eyes remain closed for about a month, and after four months they will hunt for themselves. They reach sexual maturity at ten months. The lifespan of a ringtail in the wild is approximately seven years.
The Ringtail can be easily tamed, and can make an affectionate pet and effective mouser. Miners used to keep them as pets to keep their cabins free of vermin, hence, the common name “Miner’s Cat”.