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North American Ringtail (Bassariscus astutus) Fact Sheet: Reproduction & Development

Courtship & Mating

Mating system (Poglayen-Neuwall and Toweill 1988)

  • No detailed reports describing behavior
  • Male chases female

Copulation (Poglayen-Neuwall and Toweill 1988)

  • Male grasps female behind the pelvis with his forefeet, in a seated position
    • May hold female 1-2 minutes
    • Repeated quick thrusts lasting a few seconds
  • Females vocalize with mating "chitter" before and during copulation
  • Undertaken several times per hour


Seasonally monestrous

  • Female receptive to mating once a year, for 24-36 hours (Nowak 1999; Poglayen-Neuwall and Toweill 1988)
  • Mate in February-May, in general


  • Give birth in dens
    • Located in rock crevices, under boulders, or hollow trees (Nowak 1999; Taylor 1954)
      • Dens reported in old native American dwellings and upper parts of cabins
    • Lined occasionally with leaves or grass; rarely with hair and feathers (Taylor 1954)
  • Den use is temporary
    • Young are moved often (every few days), once old enough (Poglayen-Neuwall and Toweill 1988)

Gestation & Birth

(summarized from Nowak 1999; Poglayen-Neuwall and Toweill 1988; Zeveloff 2002)


  • 51-54 days
  • Shortest pregnancy within the procyonid family


  • May-June typical
    • Range: April-July
  • Born in nest or den
  • 2-3 offspring typically
    • Range: 1-4; as many as 5 have been reported
    • Interval between sibling birth: 7-49 minutes
  • Birth weight
    • 14-40 g (0.5- 1.4 oz), mean 22 g (0.78 oz)


  • 85-126 minutes
    • Fetal expulsion takes 2-47 minutes
  • Born head-first, typically

Life Stages

Infant (from summary by Poglayen-Neuwall and Toweill 1988 unless otherwise noted)

  • Appearance (from Richardson 1942)
    • "Fuzzy, nude appearance"
      • Whitish fur; short to c.3 mm
    • Dark pigmentation around the nose
    • Tail short, hairless, banded with pigmented skin
  • Development
    • Ear canals and eyes closed at birth (Richardson 1942)
      • Ears open first, by 30 days
      • Eyes open fully by 34 day
    • Fully haired by 35 days (Richardson 1942)
    • Consume solid food by 6-7 weeks
      • Excrement of young consumed by mother until young begin taking solid food (Richardson 1942)
    • Walk well by 6 weeks; climb by 8 weeks (Richardson 1942)

Juvenile Life (< c.3 years) (from Nowak 1999 unless otherwise noted)

  • Care provided by female; male may stay in vicinity
  • Forage with adults at 2 months
  • Weaning complete at 3-4 months (Nowak 1999; Poglayen-Neuwall 1990)
  • Full size at 30 weeks


  • Male
    • Sexual maturity (testes descend) at 16 weeks (Poglayen and Toweill 1988)
  • Female
    • Pregnancy indicated by vulval swelling and hair loss around mammae (Poglayen and Toweill 1988)


 c. 7 years (Poglayen-Neuwall 1990)


Predation (summarized in Poglayen-Neuwall and Toweill 1988)

  • Great horned owl (Bubo virginianus)
  • Coyote (Canis latrans)
  • Raccoon (Procyon lotor)
  • Bobcat (Felis rufus)

Disease (summarized in Poglayen-Neuwall and Toweill 1988)

  • Rabies
  • Feline and canine panleucopenia
  • Parasites
    • Many known ecto- and endoparasites

Interactions with Humans (Zeveloff 2002)

  • Struck by automobiles
  • Trapped for fur (Zeveloff 2002)
    • Decline in demand has driven down number of trapped animals since 1979
    • Pelt reportedly of poor quality

Female within a Den

a ringtail den

Ringtails use dens to shelter during the day and to give birth and raise young.

Image credit: © D Neal from Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Page Citations

Nowak (1999)
Poglayen-Neuwall (1990)
Poglayen-Neuwall and Toweill (1988)
Richardson (1942)
Taylor (1954)
Zeveloff (2002)

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