Kelly Vaughn

No, this isn’t a cat, even though it somewhat resembles one. Rather, this is a ringtail (Bassariscus astutus), which is actually more closely related to the raccoon. In Arizona, these nocturnal omnivores can be found in rocky habitats near water. According to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, ringtails — the official state mammal — can rotate their hind feet 180 degrees, making them exceptional climbers. These tiny creatures live in dens, sometimes in tree hollows or abandoned mines, and thrive on fruit, lizards, snakes, birds, bird eggs and some small mammals. Their natural predators are coyotes, bobcats and owls. Bruce D. Taubert photographed this ringtail near Rye, south of Payson.