Ringtail Fact File

Bassariscus astutus

Credit: Juan Cruzado Cortés, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons








Wild 7 years

Captive 16 years



Fruits, Insects, Nuts

Conservation Status


Least Concern

The ringtail is a native of North America and may also be known as the ringtail cat or miners cat.

These animals are omnivores and eat a wide variety of foods including fruit, insects, nuts, small mammals, birds and frogs.

Females form a den in which they give birth to between 1 and 4 young. Strangely males will remain close by to the female he mates with and often plays with his young.

Ringtails are primarily threatened by capture for the fur trade and may also be a victim of vehicle strikes.

Read on to learn more about these magical mammals.


What does the ringtail look like?

Ringtails take their name from the long, bushy tail at the end of their body which measures 31-44cm (12-17.5in) long. This is patterned with alternating white and black wings.

The tail helps them to keep balanced when climbing and is also used to make them look bigger when threatened.

Their ears are large and rounded. They have semi-retractable claws on each foot.

The rest of the body is covered by grey-brown of buff fur across the back. A black ring surrounds the eyes with the muzzle and 'eyebrows' being white. The white around the eyes helps to draw light in to the eyes to give them better night vision.

An average ringtail will measure 30-42cm (12-16.5in) long with a weight between 0.8 and 1.4kg (1.75-3lbs). They stand 16cm (6.3in) tall at the shoulder. Males are often slightly larger than females.


What does the ringtail eat?

Ringtails are omnivores. Their diet includes animal prey such as small mammals, insects, birds, lizards, honey and frogs along with plant matter such as nuts and fruits.

After eating they will groom themselves by licking their fur and running their damp paws over the head.


Credit: Theo Kruse Burgers' Zoo (https://www.burgerszoo.nl/katfret) CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


Where can you find the ringtail?

North America is the native home of the ringtail. Here they an be found in the United States and Mexico.

They are occasionally found outside of their natural range and this is thought to arise from movements by humans including the animals boarding railway cars.


What kind of environment does the ringtail live in?

They make their home in a variety of habitats including forest, shrubland, grassland and rocky areas such as cliffs or canyons. Their appears to be a preference for dry habitats though they also occur near water courses.

Ringtails seem tolerant of human disturbance and will often live alongside humans. They have been recorded entering mine shafts.

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How does the ringtail produce its young?

Breeding takes place during February.

Females give birth to between 1 and 4 young after a 51 to 60 day gestation period. They will form a den under a boulder or in a tree hollow where they raise the young. At birth the young cannot see or hear.

Young are weaned 10 weeks after birth but remain with their mother until 10 months old. She will initially find food for them.

Males will remain near their partner while she raises the young and often play with his offspring as they grow.

Sexual maturity is reached by 10 months old.


What does the ringtail do with its day?

Ringtails are considered nocturnal though some crepuscular activity is also recorded.

These animals are solitary except for during breeding. If another individual enters their territory they will act aggressively towards them.

Each individual maintains a territory which they will mark with their scent. Males have larger home ranges than females.

Ringtails are adept climbers often seen in the trees or climbing vertical walls, rocky cliffs or cacti. They have an ability to turn their hind feet 180 degrees to help them grip when descending objects.

These animals can also move with ease up small cracks in the rocks through a process called stemming. This involves them pushing their feet against one wall and their back against the other then shimmying up.

They can produce a range of vocalizations including a squeak, chirp, whimper, hiss, grunt or growl.


Credit: Daniel Neal, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the ringtail?

Natural predators of the ringtail include birds of prey such as owls, racoons, bobcats and coyotes.

When threatened the ringtail will raise the tail over its head in an attempt to look larger.

Ringtails are naturally found in low densities across their range. No formal estimate of their population trend has been established.

These animals are trapped across parts of their range for their fur though this has declined in recent years. The pelt is considered to be of low quality. They may also be trapped accidentally in traps set for foxes and racoons.

They may also fall victim to vehicle strikes.

Quick facts

These animals are also known as the ring-tailed cat or miners cat. They may also be referenced as the cacomistle though this name is more commonly applied to Bassariscus sumichrasti.

Their alternative name of miners cat comes from the habit of miners keeping them as pets in their camp during the gold exploration period in Nevada. They were used to help control populations of rats and mice.

The ringtail is listed as the state mammal of Arizona.

Ringtails are considered the smallest member of their family Procyonidae.

Learn more about the ringtail in this video

Credit: DesertMuseum on YouTube


Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2012. The illustrated encyclopedia of animals of the world. London: Southwater.

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Reid, F., Schipper, J. & Timm, R. 2016. Bassariscus astutusThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T41680A45215881. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T41680A45215881.en. Downloaded on 19 September 2021.

Idfg.idaho.gov. 2021. Ringtail (Bassariscus astutus) | Idaho Fish and Game. [online] Available at: <https://idfg.idaho.gov/species/taxa/19153#names> [Accessed 20 September 2021]. Desertmuseum.org. 2021. Ringtail Fact Sheet. [online] Available at: <https://www.desertmuseum.org/kids/oz/long-fact-sheets/Ringtail.php> [Accessed 20 September 2021].

Tpwd.texas.gov. 2021. Ringtail (Bassariscus astutus). [online] Available at: <https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/rtail/> [Accessed 20 September 2021].

Goldberg, J. 2003. "Bassariscus astutus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed September 19, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Bassariscus_astutus/

Boone, J., 2021. Wildlife Around Las Vegas, Ringtail (Bassariscus astutus). [online] Birdandhike.com. Available at: <https://www.birdandhike.com/Wildlife/Mamm/04Car/2_Proc/Basari_ast/_Bas_ast.htm> [Accessed 20 September 2021].

Williams, D., 2021. Ringtailed Cat - Bassariscus astutus - DesertUSA. [online] Desertusa.com. Available at: <https://www.desertusa.com/animals/ringtail-cat.html> [Accessed 20 September 2021].

North American Ringtail (Bassaricsus astutus) Fact Sheet. c2013-2019. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [Accessed September 19 2021]. http://ielc.libguides.com/sdzg/factsheets/ ringtail.

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