Arizona State Mammal
Ring-tailed Cat (common name)
Bassariscus astutus (scientific name)
Though it often behaves like a cat, Arizona’s ring-tailed cat is not a feline, but a relative of the raccoon—its long, bushy tail is the main sign of the close relationship. Ring-tailed cats are nocturnal and excellent climbers, though they usually climb only when looking for food. They come out of their dens after sunset and normally return or find a new den before sunrise. They use leaves, grasses, and fur for bedding. Ringtails have a territory, and may often maintain more than one den in their area. They are found throughout much of Arizona and have been the state mammal since 1986. They prefer to live in dry, rocky areas.
ALSO KNOWN AS
Ringtail cat, ring-tailed cat, miner's cat, civet cat
About half of a ring-tailed cat’s length is tail, which is striped with alternating bands of black and white (normally eight of each). Most of its fur is gray with a yellowish cast, though the animal’s belly is off-white. Its very large eyes have a purple cast, and are surrounded by light-colored patches. Ears are pointed and upright. Each foot has five toes equipped with sharp, curved claws.
Up to 19 years; average of 7 years in the wild
Ring-tailed cats live in rocky desert canyons and foothills, including the Great Basin Desert. They typically make their dens in caves, crevices, and hollow trees.
Range: California south into Mexico, west into Texas and Oklahoma, and north into Oregon.
Conservation Status: Least Concern (LC)
Ring-tailed cats are normally solitary. During mating season, both males and females mark their territory to attract a mate and repel same-sex ring-tailed cats. They mate in April and give birth 45–50 days later, in May or June. Males bring the females food while they are pregnant, and also help care for the cubs after they are three weeks old. Ring-tailed cats make many different noises to communicate, including chirps, squeaks, twitters, barks, growls, and whimpers. A ringtail that perceives a threat bristles its tail hair and pulls its tail towards its head to make itself seem larger.
Small animals including mammals, birds, and lizards. Also insects, berries, and other kinds of fruit.
Cubs are blind at birth, and their eyes open at 31 to 34 days old. They are usually weaned at 42 days old, and have their adult colors by the time they are three months old. Ring-tailed cats begin hunting by themselves when they are about four months old, and are ready to mate at 10 months.
Breeding interval: Annual
Birthing period: May–June
Average litter size: 2–4 cubs
Size at birth: 0.9 oz (25 g)
Click to enlarge an image
Data Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Author: World Trade Press