Cacomistle, scientifically known as Bassariscus sumichrasti, is a species within the Order Carnivora, meaning it is related to both dogs and cats, as well as many other animals.
Cacomistle is a shy nocturnal animal and is found in Costa Rica, Panama, and Mexico. The cacomistle solely depends on the forests for survival.
Their name in the Nahuatl language means half-cat and can be mistaken with its close relative, the Ringtailed Cat, scientifically known as “Bassariscus astutus.”
They can be found in the Southwestern area of the United States.
Cacomistles have five known subspecies, and they include;
- Bassariscus sumichrasti sumichrasti
- Bassariscus sumichrasti latrans
- Bassariscus sumichrasti notinus
- Bassariscus sumichrasti variabilis
- Bassariscus sumichrasti oaxacensis
They are members of the genus Bassariscus which has only one other species, the Ringtailed Cat.
- Scientific name: Bassariscus sumichrasti
- Common names: Cacomistle, cacomixl, ringtail, ring-tailed cat, miner’s cat, bassarisk
- Basic Animal Group: Mammal
- Size: 15-18 inch body; 15-21 inch tail
- Weight: 2-3 pounds
- Lifespan: 7 years
- Diet: Omnivore
- Habitat: Mexico and Central America
- Population: Yet unknown
- Conservation Status: Least Concern
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Procyonidae
- Genus: Bassariscus
- Species: B. Sumichrasti
- Binomial name: Bassariscus sumichrasti
The genus name “Bassariscus” was gotten from the Greek word “bassaris,” meaning “fox.” Cacomistles have their faces looking like they are wearing a mask, and they have striped tails similar to raccoons. They, however, have bodies that look like cats or foxes.
Cacomistles have pale underparts, grayish-brown coat with white eye patches, with their naked soles, and white-and-black ringed tails. They have long, pointy ears with whiskered pointed faces and a large set of eyes.
Averagely, cacomistles body size ranges from 15 to 18 inches, while the length of their tail is 15 to 21 inches. Male cacomistles are slightly longer than females, but both cacomistle sexes weigh between 2 to 3 pounds.
Habitat and distribution
Cacomistles inhabits the tropical forests of Central America and Mexico. They can also be found as far as Panama. These mammals prefer mid to upper levels of forest canopies.
They quickly adapt to a different range of habitats, making it possible to find them in secondary forests and pastures.
Cacomistle vs. Ringtail
The ringtail (B. astutus) lives in Mexico and the western United States and Mexico. The range of the ringtail overlaps the cacomistle (B. sumichrasti). The two species are easily confused for each other, but there are apparent differences between them.
Ringtails have semi-retractable claws, rounded ears, with stripes drawing all the way to the end of the tail.
The cacomistle, on the other hand, has pointed ears, non-retractable claws, and tails that disappear to black down to the ends. They also have single births, unlike ringtails, that give birth multiple cubs.
Diet and behavior
Cacomistles are naturally omnivores. Some of the things they eat include insects, lizards, rodents, birds, snakes, amphibians, eggs, fruits, and seeds.
Some cacomistle use bromeliads, which live on the top forest canopy, as a source of prey and water.
Since cacomistles are nocturnal, they hunt mostly at night. These are solitary animals that are rarely seen.
Reproduction and offspring
Mating for cacomistles starts during spring. Female cacomistles are only receptive to male cacomistles for a single day.
They separate immediately after mating and gestation approximately last for two months. Female cacomistles go up in trees to build nests and give birth to a single toothless, blind, and deaf cub.
Cacomistle cubs are weaned when they are around three months old. Cubs leave their nests to establish their territory after their mothers have taught them to hunt. Cacomistles in captivity may live up to 23 years. In their natural habitat, they can live for 5 to 7 years.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies both B. astutus and B. sumichrasti as LC “least concern.”
It is still unknown what the trend and population size for both species are. Nonetheless, both species are thought to be more prevalent throughout the areas they cover.
Fragmentation, Habitat loss and degradation due to deforestation is the most compelling threat to the survival of cacomistle. In Honduras and Mexico, cacomistles are hunted for their fur and meat.
Cacomistles and humans
Cacomistles and Ringtails are easily tamed. Miners and Settlers kept them as mousers and pets. Today, they are categorized as exotic pets and are legal to keep in some states in the U.S.
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