Meet “Belle Star,” Our Baby Cacomistle

Beautiful, isn’t she? This is a cacomistle, a little-known, rarely seen, native of West Texas. They’re also called a Ringtail Cat or a Miner’s Cat, because early miners used to keep them in their cabins as "mousers." But, they are NOT cats at all. The cacomistle is a procyonid and she’s actually related to the raccoon and the kinkajou. Once prolific throughout the southwestern United States, these drop-dead gorgeous creatures are now few in number, due to habitat loss, trapping for the fur trade and extermination as nuisance animals.

Cacomistles are secretive, nocturnal animals, who forage and hunt in the dark of the West Texas night for anything they can find. They are opportunistic omnivores and will feast upon plants, insects, eggs, meat, and camper’s leftovers. The are lightening fast and are champion rock-climbers — Belle can easily scale rock walls and she can climb straight up a rock crevice by pushing her back along one wall and walking her paws straight up the other wall. And, her feet actually can turn 180 degrees backwards — allowing her to come back down, without turning her body around.

Belle was given to Zooniversity this August by a Texas-licensed rehabilitator (experts trained in the care of our native wildlife). Belle was one in a litter of three babies, born in a hunter’s cabin in West Texas. Luckily, he was a compassionate hunter and he passed the litter on to the rehabber for bottle raising and release. There was concern that Belle may not be able to survive in the wild, since half of her famously-long, black-and-white banded tail is missing (we’re guessing one of her two brothers nibbled on it, you know those boys). Belle has learned to maneuver well without it and to trust her keepers. She is now traveling to Zooniversity stage programs and private events. She is an "eyes only" animal (meaning "no touch"), as she likes to play cacomistle-style with her baby teeth and claws. 

Invite Belle Star to your next Zooniversity event and feast your eyes on one of Texas’ most stunning, and most elusive, native beauties.

Share:Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

4 Responses to Meet “Belle Star,” Our Baby Cacomistle

  1. Susan H. says:

    Belle is beautiful (and aptly named!) but I’m curious about her tail. The picture looks like she has a long bushy tail–if this is only half a tail, how long do cacomistle tails usually get? (And now I have to go to the dictionary and look up “procyonid”!)

  2. Allison says:

    Hi Susan — A cacomistle’s tail is outrageously long and beautiful (that’s why the trapper’s love them), up to 21″ long on a 15″ long body. Belle’s tail is about 12″ long, which does not look “short” on her young frame, but it’s certainly not the luscious length it should be. (And where’s my invite to Summer Reading?)

  3. Kameron says:

    I’m so pleased that Belle is fitting in nicely with Zooniversity. You will be happy to know that Belle’s siblings were successfully released this past week! There is no doubt that Belle will live a wonderfully fulfilled life educating children and adults about this elusive, beautiful species.

  4. Allison says:

    Hi Kameron — Thank you for sharing Belle with all of our Zooniversity students. She’s going to be a great (and favorite) teacher! And, she’ll get lots of spoiling from me…

Leave a Reply