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How to identify wild animal droppings

Updated February 21, 2017

When you're walking in the woods, you might come across animal droppings, or scat. You can tell a wide variety of things about the animal that left it, and even identify the animal if you understand how to inspect the scat properly. Use scat-reading methods to find out what type of animals are running around in your woods or entering your backyard. Because there are so many kinds of animal scat, a field guide is essential. You can purchase an animal scat field guide at most outdoors stores.

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  1. Inspect the size of the scat. Larger animals will leave larger piles of scat behind. For example, a bird will leave a small pile while a bear will leave a very large pile. Use your field guide to eliminate animals that aren't the right size.

  2. Compare the shape of the scat to the scat profiles in your field guide. The shape of the scat will tell you a lot about the animal. Carnivorous animals have cylindrical scat while herbivores have small, round scat.

  3. Look at the shape of the scat pile. Animals such as deer or birds leave scat as they move, leaving long trails. Animals that sleep in one place, such as bears, often eliminate in a very specific spot away from their den, resulting in large, neat piles of concentrated scat. Check your field guide for animals that leave scat in this method.

  4. Check the colour of the animal scat. Carnivores have dark scat that matches the meat they eat. They also often have fur in their scat. You might see small plant parts in herbivore scat and the colour may vary depending on the type of plants the animal ate.

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Things You'll Need

  • Animal scat field guide

About the Author

Eric Benac began writing professionally in 2001. After working as an editor at Alpena Community College in Michigan and receiving his Associate of Journalism, he received a Bachelor of Science in English and a Master of Arts in writing from Northern Michigan University in Marquette.

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