Bassariscus sumichrasti (Saussure, 1860)
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French: Bassaris de Sumichrast / German: Mittelamerikanisches Katzenfrett /
Spanish: Cacomixtle meridional
Taxonomy. Bassaris sumichrasti Saussure, 1860 ,
Five subspecies recognized.
Subspecies and Distribution.
B.s. sumichrasti Saussure, 1860 — Mexico (Veracruz, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo & Campeche).
B. s. latrans Davis & Lukens, 1958 — Mexico (Guerrero).
B. s. notinus Thomas, 1903 — Costa Rica and Panama.
B. s. oaxacensis Goodwin, 1956 — Mexico (Oaxaca).
Descriptive notes. Head-body 38-50 cm,tail 39-55 cm; weight 0.7-1. 2 kg. Cacomistles are very similar to Ringtails in having slender gray bodies with bushy ringed tails. The two are distinguished by the Cacomistle being a bit larger, with less contrasting facial and tail markings, a browner back and tanner belly, and a shorter black muzzle. The rings on the tail of the Cacomistle also differ in being unbroken, and the distal one third ofthe tail is nearly uniformly black.
Habitat. Tropical lowland wet forest to 2700 m.
Food and Feeding. Cacomistles are generalist feeders, eating roughly equal amounts of fruit and insects. They will opportunistically kill and eat very small vertebrate prey, and captive animals have caught and eaten free-flying birds within their enclosures.
Activity patterns. Cacomistles are active in the mid and upperlayers of the forest canopy at night. Their activity begins immediately after sunset and continues at a relatively constant pace (60-75% active) until an hour or two before sunrise. Males are slightly more active than females. Cacomistles may not be strictly nocturnal, as some animals have been recorded vocalizing in the daytime.
Movements, Home range and Social organization. Cacomistles in Costa Rica used an average home range size of 20 ha in a landscape of mixed forest and overgrown pasture. In another Costa Rican study, animals consistently moved approximately 2-5 km per night. Although individuals are typically solitary, there is extensive overlap between males and females, and between different males. Whether this overlap relates to family social groups is unknown. Multiple males can be kept together harmoniously in captivity. Cacomistles frequently vocalize with calls of 2-3 repeated syllables sounding like “uyoo-whaa” or “boyo-baa-wow”. These probably play both a territorial and spacing role, as wild animals will approach a playback of the call, but retreat if it is too loud. A variety of other social vocalizations have been described for captive animals. Scent is also an important mode of communication for Cacomistles, and marks are made in four different ways: urine, cheek glands, anal glands, and a strong overall body odor. This strong body odoris present only in males, and is a pungent, sweaty smell detectable by humans from 3-6 m away. Scent marking probably functions to communicate a variety of social messages. The fluid from the anal gland is stronger-smelling than in the Ringtail, and has been hypothesized as serving a defensive function.
Breeding. Estrus in Cacomistles lasts about 44 days and is followed by a gestation period of about 63-65 days leading to a litter size of one. Young are able to walk with a wobbly gait after about one month, hop after about two months, and begin climbing in about their third month. Captive animals begin eating solid food between 48-60 days.
Status and Conservation. Classified as Least Concern by The IUCN Red List. Cacomistles are locally common, especially in the northern parts of their range.
Bibliography. Coates-Estrada & Estrada (1986), Garcia et al. (2002), Poglayen-Neuwall (1991, 1992a, 1992b), Poglayen-Neuwall & Poglayen-Neuwall (1994), Reid (1997), Vaughan et al. (1994).
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