Throwback Thursday: Rocky the Ringtail

Throwback Thursday: Rocky the Ringtail

By Laurie Merrill / ADOT Communications
November 18, 2021

Most of us in Arizona can probably go whole days, if not months or even years, without paying much thought to the ringtail, Arizona’s official state mammal.

But chances are, most of you are carrying a photo of it in your wallet. That’s because, in 2014, the Arizona Department of Transportation included a picture of this elusive animal on the redesigned driver licenses.

You can seeing it lounging on the bottom right hand corner. For today’s Throwback Thursday, we are throwing back to 2014, when ADOT held a “name the ringtail” contest. We thought the little creature deserved a nickname, so we asked all of you for ideas.  

You submitted plenty of suggestions. Ringo, Kai, Copper and even Lord Voldemort were among hundreds of entries.

But in the end, it was Rory, who at the time was a 7-year-old girl from Peoria, who came up with the winner: “Rocky” the ringtail was christened! Rory is pictured in the black and white dress to the right.

So what is a ringtail? Is it a cat, or a lemur? It’s actually related to the coati and raccoon.

The following information comes from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum:

Ringtails (Bassariscus astutus) have long tails with alternating bands of white and black fur. They have large eyes surrounded by white rings of fur, large rounded ears, short legs and a long grayish colored body.

Ringtails are omnivores which means they will eat just about anything if it is the right size. Some of their food choices are fruit, insects, lizards, snakes, small mammals such as mice, woodrat's, squirrels, as well as birds and bird eggs

You can get more information at the Arizona Game and Fish Department website.

As for Rory and her family, they visited MVD headquarters in Phoenix to receive her awards – a stuffed animal (a ringtail, of course!), a special license plate and a pink ADOT hard hat.

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