Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Backyard Nature - The Ringtail

Though nocturnal and not regularly seen, the ringtail is a relatively common animal throughout the southwestern United States and most of Mexico. This small mammal is named for the 14-16 black and white stripes that ring its tail; a tail that may exceed the animal’s body length.
Often referred to as a ring-tailed cat, miner’s cat, or civet cat, ringtails actually belong to the raccoon family and are not closely related to felines. Smaller than housecats, most ringtails have body lengths of less than sixteen inches and weigh no more than three pounds. The ringtail’s lithe body, long tail and 180-degree rotating ankles allow it to quickly move through rocky and tight terrain, even performing cartwheels and ricochet moves to change direction or negotiate obstacles.

Ringtails are extremely solitary animals and usually only socialize for mating purposes. They spend nighttime hours hunting and foraging for an omnivorous diet that includes berries, fruits, mice, insects, and birds. Their ability as mouse hunters combined with their tame nature led many miners in the nineteenth century to domesticate ringtails to rid cabins of vermin, hence the “miner’s cat” nickname.

The ringtail is currently the state mammal of Arizona.

No comments: