North America is home to a plethora of adorable mammals, and our mission to plant 10 trees for each item purchased in our store is done in part with creatures like this one in mind. Trees provide natural habitat for all sorts of mammals. The ringtail is one such animal, and it sure is a cute one.
Bassariscus astutus goes by a lot of names. Some call it a ring-tailed cat. Others call it a miners cat, bassarisk, or cacomistle. Call it what you like, we call it a sweetheart.
Even though it’s popularly called the ring-tailed cat, it is in no way related to felines. It got its reputation as a cat due to some gold rush-era miners keeping them in their cabins and on their properties to help keep mice away. They’re also about the size of a cat.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably never seen a ringtail in person. I didn’t even know they existed until recently! There are a few different places in North America you can find them.
The animal is pretty common in the American Southwest. It’s actually the state mammal of Arizona! But its range is rather large, spanning as far northwest as Oregon and northeast as Oklahoma.
One reason you may have never seen them is due to their solitary, nocturnal habits. They’re sparsely populated throughout their range, but you can catch a glimpse of them during the daytime hours if you’re lucky.
Ringtails are funny, intelligent little animals. They’re pretty well known for raiding camping sites in the southwest. Grand Canyon National Park visitors frequently find ringtails going through their food. They’re audacious for a shy, solitary creature.
Even though they’re rare, the ringtail is not particularly threatened. The IUCN classifies them as “least concern” for conservation due to their wide range of territory and the fact that they seem to be able to adapt to human encroachment quite well. But we know little about their numbers, so conservation efforts are still important.
In Oregon, as part of the Oregon Conservation Strategy, work is being done to improve our methodology for tracking and measuring their populations. Citizen science is being utilized as well. If you’re in Oregon and you capture an image of one, you can report your sighting to iNaturalist.