• Lower Cliff Dwelling

    Tonto

    National Monument Arizona

Ringtail

ringtail

Ringtail

NPS Photo

Ringtail
Bassariscus astutus

Body length: 14 - 16"
Diet: Lizards, small mammals, fruit, and insects

Also known as rock cats, civet cats, and miner's cats, ringtails look like cats, but are not. Their closest relatives are raccoons and coatis. Unlike raccoons, ringtails are desert-adapted and probably do not need to drink water. They prefer rocky areas, and climb easily on rocky cliffs; during vertical descents, they can rotate their hind foot 180 degrees.

The catlike facial features of this species hint strongly that ringtails are nocturnal and rarely active during the day. Their large eyes can take in extra light at night, and large ears can be directed toward a particular sound. The long nose indicates an acute sense of smell. Whiskers (and tail) are used for feeling around in the dark. During the day, ringtails can be found in caves and crevices. Not surprisingly, they appear to be common around the cliff dwellings at Tonto National Monument.

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