OAP: Ringtail

The ringtail, sometimes called the ring-tailed cat, is an interesting and unique part of the landscape in the western United States. I know that many of the Odd Animal Profile’s you’ll find here on Endangered Living tend to be animals from far off places, but it’s good to remember we have incredible wildlife here in our own backyard.

Photo by Flickr user Dbarronoss
Photo by Flickr user Dbarronoss

Although these nocturnal mammals (not actually cats but more closely related to racoons) are listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Redlist you’ll probably still have a hard time spotting them in their, albeit large, native range. These unique creatures can be found in Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, and even in northern Mexico. They live secretive lives in rocky terrain and thrive in the caves and canyons that dot the landscape. Ringtails also tend to move around a lot, never spending more than a few nights in one den.

These are impressive hunters that prey on just about anything they can get their paws on, from insects to snakes to birds, which I believe becomes a bit more impressive when you realise that these creatures are only about 2 pounds. Although, being so small opens them up to becoming prey themselves. Owls, bobcats, coyotes, and racoons are all predators of the ringtail.

Photo by Josh More
Photo by Josh More

These lightweight ringtails are adept climbers. Unlike cats, who can get stuck in trees, ringtails have no problem ascending and descending as their back paws can rotate 180º allowing them a good grip all the way down, whether they’re climbing a cactus or a cliff.

My favourite fun fact about this animal is that it’s scientific name Bassariscus astutus actually translates to something along the line of ‘cunning little fox’ (Another slight misnomer. Remember! It’s related to the racoon!).

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