October 16, 2012
I am excited to report that I saw an animal that I have never seen, a mammal I only had vague notions of, barely knew existed and did not think it lived in northern California.
I was sitting quietly in the dark at about 8 PM, waiting for Chris to return from Redding with dinner. I had two flashlights but both were losing power so I turned them off, only lighting them when I heard a noise I thought I should investigate. At one point, I heard some rustling and footsteps and illuminated two deer nearby. They ran off when discovered. This is black bear territory so I was a little concerned about a visit from one.
Then I heard something quickly climb the tree nearest me. Shining the light upward I first saw a long, beautiful, thick, black and white striped tail, a couple feet long. I immediately think of raccoon but the tail was too long and the wrong colors. Then the animal curls around the trunk and looks at me. I see a sweet face that looks like a cross between a cat and a fox, with big dark eyes and large ears rounded at the top. It is a warm tan on its upper side and white underneath and about the size of a house cat except for the incredible tail. I am flummoxed; what is this animal? I take pride in knowing my fauna. In the back of my mind I recalled something similar, a relative of the raccoon that I thought lived in the southern desert. Yes, this is a ringtail! (Also known as ringtail cat.) I am thrilled to witness this magnificent creature. The ringtail quickly jumps to another tree and disappears.
The next day I mention my siting at the visitor’s center and the rangers are excited and say its rare to see a ringtail since they are nocturnal and secretive. Have you seen one?