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Squaw-ringtail-28073.jpg

A small carnivore in the raccoon family (Procyonidae), the ringtail (Bassariscus astutus) is about the size of a domestic cat and resembles a small fox with a raccoon-like tail. The tail is slightly flattened and is about the same length as the head and body, and is conspicuously marked with between 14 and 16 contrasting black and white bands. The black bands are incomplete on the underside of the tail, and the tail’s tip is black. The upperparts of the ringtail are light brownish-yellow to greyish with a black or dark brown wash and grey underfur, while the underparts are whitish or pale buff. The face is grey, with large whitish patches, and the eyes are ringed with black. The ringtail has a long, pointed muzzle, well-developed whiskers, and large, rounded ears that become whitish towards the tip. Around 14 subspecies of ringtail have been described. This species can be distinguished from the only other member of its genus, the cacomistle (Bassariscus sumichrasti), by its smaller size, relatively shorter tail, rounded rather than pointed ears, and furred rather than naked soles on its feet. The ringtail also has short, straight claws that can be partially retracted, whereas the cacomistle has long, curved, non-retractable claws. An agile climber, the ringtail is able to descend trees and rocks head first by rotating its hind feet by 180 degrees. The ringtail is able to survive in hot, arid areas with little drinking water.

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