UNUSUAL WILDLIFE SIGHTING - Ringtail cats or Miner’s cat

by Placerville Newswire / Nov 11, 2018 / comments

[U.S. Forest Service - Eldorado National Forest]
 
Two of our rangers were patrolling at around 5,000 feet elevation when they saw a Ringtail cat! It was quite a shock to both of them, especially since they are nocturnal animals. 

These cute critters look to be a cross between a fox and a raccoon, and the size of a small house cat. Here in California they are also known as the miner’s cat. 

Legend has it miners and settlers enticed ringtails to live in their cabins to help control rodents. Their diet is primarily carnivorous but also do eat other foods like plants, fruit, and insects. 

Ringtail cats are nocturnal, solitary and sparsely populate their range which makes them hard to spot. They are very nimble, and can quickly reverse the direction they are moving by performing a cartwheel using their tail. They are also excellent climbers and can scale vertical walls, trees, rocky cliffs and even cacti. 

Ringtail cats are a fully protected species. They may not be taken at any time and no licenses or permits may be issued for their take except for collecting specimens for necessary scientific research.


The ringtail is a mammal of the raccoon family, native to arid regions of North America. It is also known as the ringtail cat, ring-tailed cat, miner's cat or bassarisk, and is also sometimes called a "civet cat".

The ringtail (Bassariscus astutus) is a mammal of the raccoon family, native to arid regions of North America.

The ringtail is buff to dark brown in color with pale underparts. Ringtails have a pointed muzzle with long whiskers resembles that of a fox (which is appropriate in that its name means ‘clever little fox’) and its body resembles that of a cat. These animals are characterized by a long black and white "ringed" tail with 14–16 stripes, which is the about the same length as its body. The claws are short, straight, and semi-retractable, and are perfect for climbing.

The ankle joint is flexible and is able to rotate over 180 degrees, making it an agile climber. Their long tail provides balance for negotiating narrow ledges and limbs, even allowing them to reverse directions by performing a cartwheel. Ringtails also can ascend narrow passages by stemming (pressing all feet on one wall and their back against the other or pressing both right feet on one wall and both left feet on the other), and wider cracks or openings by ricocheting between the walls.