Creature Feature: Ringtail

The ringtail (Bassariscus astutus) is a small omnivorous mammal that can be found across the West. Ringtails prefer rocky habitats in desert, and in oak and pine woodlands. In the desert, ringtails are often found in riparian areas where water and food are more abundant. 

Did you know that the ring-tailed cat is not actually a cat? They are in the same family as raccoons and coatis, called the procyonids. The ringtail gets its name from its bushy black and white ringed tail. The rest of its body is tan and very cat like in appearance.

Ringtails are active at night and at twilight, hunting small animals and foraging for fruits and seeds. The ringtail is very agile and often forages in trees and on cliffsides. To help climb they have retractable claws to help them grip and maneuver. In more developed areas ringtails are often found near rocky walls and road structures. Unless you live near rocky cliffs or walls, the ringtail is elusive and seeing one is a treat!

The ringtail’s cat-like body and retractable claws makes tracking tricky. To the untrained eye, a ringtail track often looks like a cat’s. Remember, the ringtail is not a cat! While it can be hard to tell, cats have four toes, whereas ringtails have 5 toes (one is hard to see). Check out these ringtail tracks below:

Example of ringtail tracks. To the untrained eye they look a lot like cat tracks