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Fish and Game to Get First Insight into Elusive Ring-tailed Cat

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is getting new insights into the presence of the elusive Ring-tailed cat in the state. Biologists are currently tracking a female Ring-tailed cat that was captured on the south side of Twin Falls on March 21, fitted with a radio collar and released the next day near Rock Creek in the South Hills. Based on information from the radio collar, biologists say the two pound animal traveled eight miles in three days following the release. Information on the number of ringtails in Idaho is virtually nonexistent. In fact, this marks the first time Idaho biologists have had a live ringtail in their hands. Biologists will track the animal's movements, hoping to gain new insights about the elusive species' range and travel corridors. To watch a short video of biologists and a veterinarian fitting the ringtail with a radio collar and releasing it into the wild, visit Idaho Fish and Game's YouTube channel at http://youtu.be/mCchVGpy87M The tiny carnivore with big ears, pointed nose, long tail and striking facial markings isn't a cat at all. A member of the raccoon family, it eats rodents, birds, berries and insects and inhabits the rocky deserts of the Southwest and Mexico. However, the species can persist in an array of habitats, and its range runs north into the forests of southern Oregon. Fish and Game Biologists have very little information about how many ringtail cats live in Idaho. Few people will ever see a ringtail because of their nocturnal nature. They spend daylight hours in a den, only coming out at night. The first documented presence of a ringtail in Idaho was in 1967. More than three decades later, in 2003, a single ringtail carcass was discovered just outside Castle Rocks State Park. Tracks believed to be ringtail were spotted in 2005, and a ringtail observation was reported in City of Rocks National Reserve in 2006. Recently, potential sightings were reported in the Almo-Elba area and Rock Creek. Biologists say finding a female ringtail is a plus. If the radio collar continues transmitting until this time next year and the ringtail successfully breeds, they could learn something about the species' preferred den habitat. Fish and Game would also like to hear from anyone who sees a ringtail cat, or has any evidence of the species' presence in Idaho. Eventually, biologists plan to start a ringtail DNA database to determine whether Idaho's ringtails are connected with populations in Utah or Nevada. That would help determine whether southern Idaho has a longstanding ringtail population that has gone undetected, a population that is moving north from Nevada or Utah, or only individuals dispersing north to find mates.