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North American Ringtail (Bassariscus astutus) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding


Omnivorous carnivorous

  • Consume a wide variety of foods
  • Diet seasonal (Poglayen-Neuwall 1990; Taylor 1954; Wyatt 1993)
    • Summer and Fall: insects are primary food source
    • Winter and Spring: fruit and warm-blooded animals

Prey Items

Insects and other arthropods (Taylor 1954; Toweill and Terr 1977)

  • Largest proportion of diet
    • 21-73%, one study
    • Location dependent; lesser component of diet in California's Central Valley (Wyatt 1993)
  • Orthoptera primarily (crickets and grasshoppers)

Mammals (Poglayen-Neuwall and Toweill 1988, Taylor 1954; Toweill and Terr 1977; Wyatt 1993)

  • Fox and ground squirrels
  • Cottontail rabbit
  • Cotton and wood rats
  • Small mice (such as white-footed and harvest mice)
  • Bats

Birds (Poglayen-Neuwall and Toweill 1988, Taylor 1954; Toweill and Terr 1977)

  • Passerines ("perching birds")
  • Columbids (dove and pigeons)
  • Galliformes (such as bobwhite quail)

Reptiles (Taylor 1954)

  • Lizards
  • Skinks
  • Snakes

Scavenged Items

Scavenge available carrion

  • Deer
  • Domestic sheep
  • Skunk
  • Other carrion

Plant Material

Consume fruits and nectar when available (summarized from Poglayen-Neuwall and Toweill 1988; Taylor 1954; Toweill and Terr 1977)

  • Cactus fruit
  • Acorns
  • Juniper berries
  • Mistletoe berries
  • Persimmons
  • Wild figs
  • Nectar (Kuban and Schwartz 1985)


Hunting practices

  • Search under rocks, dead branches and in crevasses (Poglayen-Neuwall and Toweill 1988)
  • Pounce on and bite the neck of prey (Zeveloff 2002)
  • Pin small animals with the front feet (Poglayen-Neuwall and Toweill 1988)


  • Begins at head of prey (Grinnel et al 1937; Poglayen-Neuwall and Toweill 1988)

Other Feeding Behaviors

Other feeding behaviors

  • Press large fruits to the ground, breaking off small pieces (Poglayen-Neuwall and Toweill 1988)
  • After feeding, ringtails sit on hindquarters, licking forefeet and wiping cheeks, snout, and ears (Taylor 1954)

North American Ringtail

Ringtail eating

Ringtail eating.

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

Page Citations

Grinnel et al (1937)
Kuban and Schwartz (1985)
Poglayen-Neuwall (1990)
Poglayen-Neuwall and Toweill (1988)
Taylor (1954)
Toweill and Terr (1977)
Wyatt (1993)
Zeveloff (2002)

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