cacomistle (kăkˈəmĭsˌəl) [key], small New World mammal, genus Bassaricus, related to the raccoon. There are two species, one found in Mexico and the SW United States, the other in Central America. The North American cacomistle, B. astutus, also known as ringtail, ring-tailed cat, and coon cat, ranges north to N Colorado and S Oregon and west to E Texas. Its body is slender and squirrellike, its face pointed and foxlike. The head and body are about 15 in. (38 cm) long; the bushy tail is of equal length. The body fur is yellowish-gray, the tail ringed with dark brown and white. The face is marked with dark brown and white, but there is no mask like that of the raccoon. Swift, agile, and able climbers, cacomistles prefer regions with trees, but they live in a variety of habitats. They are nocturnally active and although fairly common are seldom seen. They are sometimes found in pairs and make dens in hollow trees, caves, rock crevices, or abandoned buildings. Cacomistles feed primarily on small animals but also eat some vegetable matter. They are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Procyonidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.