Ringtail (Bassariscus astutus)

Who knew that Arizona had a state mammal? Yes, the ringtail is the official state mammal of Arizona. This attractive little creature, sometimes called the ring-tail cat or miner's cat, is actually closely related to the raccoon and the coati. Weighing in at about 2 1/2 pounds, it is a small carnivore around two and a half feet long (31") with almost half of its length being its beautiful, puffy black and white ringed tail. Though it is not an endangered animal, it is rarely seen because of its nocturnal and secretive habits. It hunts in shrubby areas of southern Arizona and northern Mexico.

Ringtails like to live in caves, crevices and on broken ledges as well as in abandoned mining cabins. Hollows in trees may also be used for den sites. The young, which are born in May or June, are blind at birth have downy white fur. The youngsters begin foraging for food along with the adults at two months and are weaned at four months. When they are not raising young the adults live alone.

Although ringtails are classed as carnivores (meat eaters) they are opportunistic feeders who will enjoy fruits, berries, and insects as well as lizards, frogs, birds and rodents. Their chief enemies are coyotes, bobcats and the great horned owl.

Ringtails have been sighted in the Ramsey Canyon Preserve, especially in the two abandoned buildings on the site, the James house and the James cabin. As you can see on the artist's caption on the drawing above, the ringtail is sometimes called a cacomistle. Drawing by Bob Hines, USFWS.


McClelland, Elizabeth A. Small Animals of North America. New York:: Dover Publications, Inc., 1981.

Soffer, Ruth. North American Desert Life. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. , 1994.