Bassariscus astutus


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Bassariscus astutus
Species Authority: (Lichtenstein, 1830)
Common Name/s:
English Ringtail
Taxonomic Notes: The genus Bassariscus, which comprises only two species, is regarded together with Bassaricyon as one of the most primitive procyonid genera (Wozencraft 1989). It is also one of the two procyonid genera not confounded with taxonomic problems.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor/s: Timm, R., Reid, F. & Helgen, K.
Reviewer/s: Duckworth, J.W. (Small Carnivore Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
This species is listed as Least Concern as the species is common and widely distributed from central to northern Mexico, and adapts well to disturbed areas (Barja and List 2006).

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The species is widely distributed in Mexico and across southern North America In the United States it ranges from southern Oregon and California through the southwestern states to Texas (Hall, 1981; Poglayen-Neuwall and Toweill, 1988). In Mexico, its distribution is from the desert region of the Baja California peninsula to Oaxaca. Three islands in the Gulf of California are included in its distribution: Tiburón, Espíritu Santo, and San José (Lawlor, 1983). The species is usually distributed from sea level to 1400 m with records at 2000 and 2900 m (Poglayen-Neuwall and Toweill, 1988).
Mexico; United States
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Found always in low densities and considered not abundant. Densities reported for ringtails vary from 10.5 to 20.5 individuals/km2 (Belluomini, 1983; Belluomini and Trapp, 1984), 7 to 20 individuals/km2 (Lacy 1983) and 2.2 to 4.2/km2 (Toweill and Teer, 1980) to 0.08 to 2.3 individuals/km2 (Grinnell et al., 1937) and 1.5 to 2.9 individuals/km2 (Trapp, 1973; Trapp, 1978).
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The species occurs in a variety of habitats as semi-arid oak forests (Quercus), pinyon pine (Pinus edulis), or juniper (Juniperus) woodland, and also inhabit montane conifer forests, chaparral, desert, dry tropical habitats and rocky or cliff areas (Poglayen-Neuwall and Toweill, 1988). The species adapts well to disturbed areas and is frequently found in human habitation (Barja and List, 2006). Reports on home range include 5.0 to 13.8 ha for four individuals (Lacy, 1983), 43.4 ha (35 and 51.7 ha) for two males and 20.3 ha (15.7 to 27.7 ha) for three females (Toweill and Teer, 1980) and 136 ha (49 to 233) for nine individuals. Ringtails are nocturnal carnivores with some crepuscular activity and are solitary, except for the breeding season (Toweill and Toweill, 1978; Poglayen-Neuwall and Toweill, 1988). They breed at the end of February and give birth in May (Poglayen-Neuwall and Poglayen-Neuwall, 1980). They eat rodents, insects, birds and a good amount of fruit (Trapp, 1978; Aranda, 2000).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The ringtail is legally trapped for fur in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas, where it is also caught incidentally in traps set for valuable fur-bearers such as foxes and raccoons. In recent years about 4,000 have been taken annually in Arizona, and about 1,000 in New Mexico. In Texas 45,000~50,000 ringtails were trapped each year from 1979-1985. As in the case with raccoons, the number of ringtails trapped for fur has declined since a peak in 1979, when approximately 135,000 pelts were sold. Ringtail fur is of poor quality (thin, non-durable, and subject to fading), and pelts have usually sold for less than $5 each although they have brought as much as $12. The justification for trapping ringtails for fur is weak, especially since in none of the states where trapping is legal is there sufficient knowledge of population levels and trends on which to base valid harvest regulations (Glatston, 1994). Threats to the ringtail include also automobiles (Glatston, 1994).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The species occurs in a number of protected areas.
Citation: Timm, R., Reid, F. & Helgen, K. 2008. Bassariscus astutus. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 23 April 2014.
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