Last week, a Longmont resident had a surprising and unwelcome houseguest who was eventually removed from the premises.

Around 9 a.m. on January 19, Longmont Animal Control responded to a call regarding a raccoon that was stuck under someone's stove. However, after arriving on the scene, wildlife officers discovered the animal - which had now made its way into the pantry - was actually a ringtail cat. Officers set a humane trap overnight to catch the ringtail and came back the next day to retrieve it.

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The animal was then taken to Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for further evaluation. The facility's licensed rehabilitator found no injuries, but it was determined the ringtail should be released in a better-suited habitat than the downtown Longmont area where it was found. This way, the small mammal could thrive in the wild, instead of returning to the neighborhood and potentially entering another home.

With the help of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Greenwood selected the perfect release site for the little critter. The location had large canyon walls and plentiful water, both ideal features for this lost ring-tailed cat. Upon being released, it bounded from its transport crate and climbed into the nearest tree. They are amazing climbers and their tails help them to balance.

Despite their name and similar size, the ringtail is not in the feline family and is actually closely related to raccoons. Ringtail cats are wild animals and are not suitable as pets. In fact, they are protected under state law, and owning them as pets is illegal.

This is the first ringtail sighting in Longmont in the last five years. These animals are nocturnal and typically very elusive, which is why they are so rare to see.

Ringtails mostly live in southern Colorado, although they have been seen along the foothills of the Front Range and in some canyons of the Western Slope. Because ringtails are so seldom seen, wildlife officers don't have a good handle on how many currently live in Colorado.

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