Some years ago my friend John S. was telling me about a backpacking trip he had made into the Beaver Creek State Wildlife Area in northeastern Fremont County in southern Colorado.
During the night, he said, a noise at his campsite awakened him. He flicked on his flashlight and found a "skinny raccoon" trying to get into his pack.
"That was a ring-tailed cat," I said, using the common nickname. (They are not really felines, and in fact they are related to raccoons.)
It was a case of being book-smart rather than speaking from experience. Truth is, I have never seen one one of these nocturnal "skinny raccoons" in the wild, despite all the nights that M. and I spent hiking around places like Beaver Creek SWA in the mid-1990s when we were censusing owls for the Bureau of Land Management.
Gray foxes are nocturnal too, but I spot one now and again, most recently last week while walking the dog at 10 p.m. Not these guys. I did get some blurry images on a camera at one location, but it is not a location that I care to use anymore.They forage exclusively at night, feeding on mice, birds and insects. They are slim enough to hunt woodrats in their dens. Frequently they hunt in pairs and in autumn forage as family groups. Ringtails have efficient kidneys and may not need to drink, thriving instead on the moisture in their prey (Colorado Parks and Wildlife).
So the new summer project is to find them on our property, and I just succeeded this past week. Not much of an image, but now I know they are there and can try different camera sets.