March 2021 - 22


The ringtail is a relative of the raccoon and is found from Central America to the Colorado Plateau. Its distribution
along the southern tier of Wyoming is scarcely known. (Adobe Stock Photo)

This marten-sized carnivore is related to raccoons
and coatis and occupies subtropical and tropical
woodlands, canyons and riparian zones from Central America to as far north as Oregon. Feeding on
insects, small reptiles, rodents and fruits - especially
of junipers - it is widespread on the Colorado
Plateau. The ringtail is rarer in Wyoming than the
least weasel, with only two documented specimens in
the University of Wyoming Museum of Vertebrates.
One animal was found dead in a warehouse near
where the Blacks Fork of the Green River crosses
Interstate 80. That specimen is now displayed at
the Wyoming Game and Fish Department regional
office in Green River.
Ringtails occasionally are reported from unexpected places far from their known geographic range.
They have shown up in the northern Red Desert
and in towns in northern Wyoming. Some of these
reports might be explained by ringtails being raised
and sold as pets, and then illegally released when
an owner tires of such an energetic and demanding
housemate. Also, ringtails are known to hitch rides
on vehicles carrying produce, especially fruits, and
are transported north of their geographic range.
Game and Fish biologists suspect ringtails are
distributed more widely than currently known, primarily in the juniper woodlands along Wyoming's
southern tier. Perhaps they occur as far east as Powder Rim or the Little Snake River valley, and their
distribution could shift northward as our climate
warms. Specimens or photographs from the public
would confirm these suspicions. If you find a dead
specimen, report it to the nearest Game and Fish
regional office and follow their instructions on how
to proceed.

Museums and conservation
By Steven Buskirk and Elizabeth Wommack

Natural history museums perform two major functions:
housing specimens of natural objects for scientific study
and interpreting nature to the public. (Photo by Ted
Brummond/University of Wyoming)

22 | March 2021	

Museums play an important role in holding information
and sharing it with the public. The education mission
of museums is well known to Wyomingites because of
the state's wealth of historical, art and natural history
museums: Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Wyoming State
Museum and the Geological Museum at the University
of Wyoming are examples. Many people do not realize,
however, that behind the public displays museums play
an equally important role in facilitating research. Within
the walls of natural history museums are the best pieces
of evidence of our shifting wildlife communities.
In the case of the University of Wyoming Museum of

Vertebrates, this is focused on understanding the biodiversity of animals with backbones. This behind-the-scenes role
is based on three important principles: preservation, documentation and replication. Replication means museums
try to record more than single specimens or observations;
they try to document patterns in the natural world. As
related to vertebrate biodiversity, this includes patterns
of change as time passes and the environment changes.
Currently, mammals make up the largest collection in
the museum with 6,473 digitized specimens that can be
explored through the museum's online database (https://

March 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of March 2021

From the Director
In this issue
A couple pennies
Opening shot
Ask Game and Fish
Project profiles
Case files
In the field
Tracking the rarest carnivores
Seeking the slam
A family matter
Getting kids outside
Wild country dispatch
March 2021 - Cover
March 2021 - From the Director
March 2021 - In this issue
March 2021 - A couple pennies
March 2021 - Mailbag
March 2021 - Opening shot
March 2021 - 7
March 2021 - News
March 2021 - 9
March 2021 - 10
March 2021 - 11
March 2021 - Ask Game and Fish
March 2021 - Project profiles
March 2021 - Case files
March 2021 - 15
March 2021 - In the field
March 2021 - 17
March 2021 - Tracking the rarest carnivores
March 2021 - 19
March 2021 - 20
March 2021 - 21
March 2021 - 22
March 2021 - 23
March 2021 - 24
March 2021 - 25
March 2021 - Seeking the slam
March 2021 - 27
March 2021 - 28
March 2021 - 29
March 2021 - 30
March 2021 - 31
March 2021 - A family matter
March 2021 - 33
March 2021 - 34
March 2021 - 35
March 2021 - 36
March 2021 - 37
March 2021 - Getting kids outside
March 2021 - 39
March 2021 - 40
March 2021 - 41
March 2021 - 42
March 2021 - 43
March 2021 - 44
March 2021 - 45
March 2021 - Wild country dispatch
March 2021 - 47
March 2021 - Backpage