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North American Ringtail (Bassariscus astutus) Fact Sheet: Summary

North American Ringtail (Bassariscus astutus) Fact Sheet

Ringtail on a rock

North American Ringtail (Bassaricsus astutus)

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics


Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Procyonidae

Genus: Bassariscus

Species: Bassariscus astutus* (Lichtenstein, 1830) - North American ringtail

*14 named subspecies (see Taxonomy)   

Body Weight: 0.82-1.3 kg (1.8-2.9 lb)

Head and Body Length: 305-420 mm (12.0-17 in)

Tail Length: 310-441 mm (12-17.4 in)

Shoulder Height:160 mm (6.3 in)

Physical description: fox-like face; whiskers; large, rounded ears; eyes large, ringed with black inset within white fur; bushy tail with alternating black  and white bands along length

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

Western North America: from SW Oregon south through Baja California, Mexico
Southwestern U.S.: Arizona and Nevada east to Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas
Mexico: Most of Mexico; south to Acapulco, Jalapa, and Oaxaca

Habitat: varied, commonly near water; semi-arid desert, scrub, rock plateaus and canyons, semi-oak forest, evergreen forest

IUCN Status: Least Concern (2015 assessment)

CITES Appendix: not listed

Population in Wild: unknown population size; hunted as a fur-bearing animal in many U.S. states

Locomotion: agile; jumps, ricochets off vertical surfaces, climbs cliffs, ledges, and trees; walks on toes; tail used for balance

Activity Cycle: nocturnal

Social Groups: solitary; male and female may remain close for short periods after reproducing

Diet: carnivores; diet primarily insects; seasonally consume large amounts of mammals, birds, and reptiles; scavenge; consume some fruit

Predators: great horned owl, coyote, raccoon, bobcat, hunted by humans

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

Sexual Maturity: 2-3 years

Gestation: 51-54 days

Litter Size: 2-3 typical; range: 1-4

Birth Weight: 14-40 g (0.5- 1.4 oz)

Age at Weaning: complete at 3-4 months

Typical Life Expectancy:
Wild populations: about 7 years
Managed care: about 11 years

Feature Facts

  • Smallest member of procyonid family (olingos, ringtails, coatis, and raccoons)
  • Distinguished from the more southern cacomistle by having furry foot soles and longer, more rounded ears
  • Broadly distributed, from southern Mexico north to Kansas and west to California and Oregon
  • Nocturnal
  • Climb in trees, on cliffs and ledges; hindfeet rotate 180º
  • Feeds primarily on insects and small mammals; also consumes birds, reptiles, fruits, and scavenged animals.
  • Solitary, pairs meet only to reproduce.
  • Valued by early hunters for its tail
  • Arizona's state mammal

About This Fact Sheet

© 2013-2019 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Population estimates updated Mar 2019.

How to cite: North American Ringtail (Bassaricsus astutus) Fact Sheet. c2013-2019. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. ringtail.
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2014 Sep 15)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to


Many thanks to Scott Tremor for providing expert content review of this fact sheet.

Scott is a mammalogist specializing in the mammals of southern California. He has worked with the San Diego Natural History Museum since 2004 overseeing biological inventories and conducting studies of regional wildlife. He is the principal editor of the San Diego County Mammal Atlas.

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