|Photo: James T. Johnson © California Academy of Sciences|
related to raccoons, and look very much like them. They are elusive and very nocturnal animals, believed to be active during the middle of the night. When hunting in brushy places they move swiftly but very quietly. In open moonlit areas where owls might be preying, ringtails will bounce from rock to rock with an arched back making it look much larger than it really is.
The ringtails usually spend the day in their permanent den. However, they may come out in the daytime when frightened from the nest. They stay away from urban areas but have been found in mountain cabins.
- Similar to a small raccoon, but with a slender build; grayish tan with white rings around very large, dark eyes. The face is fox-like. The bushy tail is longer than its body, banded with black rings that do not meet underneath. Soles of the feet mostly or partly furred; claws are partly retractable.
- About 30 inches overall, 2 to 3 lbs.
- Brushy, wooded areas of lower and middle elevations; foothill canyons, along water courses. Less common in high mountains, usually not above 8000 ft. Arboreal–a tree climber.
- Oregon and Colorado south to Central America.
- Preys on mice and wood rats; also eats berries, fruit and occasionally small brush-dwelling birds.
- Since they are so secretive, little is known about their breeding. Mating occurs in late winter, 3 to 4 kits are born in May or June. They have permanent dens among large boulders near canyon bottoms or in hollow trees.