Wildfile Q & A: What left that scat?

Q: What left that scat?

A: The six larger mammals plus the alligators that inhabit CREW lands may not always be seen, but evidence of their presence is common. Distinguishing the scat (excrement, droppings) of those animals is relatively easy based on shape and size.

Three of the mammals consume plant material and leave scat that usually contains seeds or berries: raccoons, black bears, and white-tailed deer.

The three other mammals are carnivores, so their scat will contain fur, bones, and/or bits of shell, but no seeds.

Alligators are primarily carnivores, too, but their digestive systems are so strong that there is rarely any recognizable material in their scat.

Below are identifying characteristics for each of the seven animals, first by shape and then by size.

1. PILEscat photos (3)

small– Raccoon

Scat can either be a small pile or small and tubular. If tubular, both ends are rounded; usually full of seeds; color will vary depending on what was recently eaten. For example, purple-tinted scat can come from a diet of elderberries, beautyberries, or cabbage palm fruit.

large– Black Bear

Scat is a humongous pile, usually full of seeds which the bears don’t digest. Color can vary depending on what the bear has recently eaten. Oval, almond-size seeds are from saw palmetto.


 

2. TUBULAR

small– Bobcat

Frequently segmented; can be up to 3 inches in length and around 3/4 inch in diameter; one end rounded while the other usually tapers to a point; contains visible fur and possibly bones

large– Panther

Frequently segmented; can be up to 5 inches in length and over 1 inch in diameter; one end rounded while the other end tapers to a point; contains bits of fur and bone. Panthers, like many cats, often scratch dirt or leaves over their scat. The bare patch where they scratched is called a “scrape.”

gigantic– Alligator

Can be up to 5 or 6 inches in length and over 2 inches in diameter; rounded at both ends; light gray when fresh and drying to almost white. Scat really stinks, even after drying up.


 

3. MUSHY BLOB

River Otter

Found near water; scat may have no recognizable shape but contains fish bones and scales and pieces of shell; oily, tar-like appearance. Otters mark their territories by leaving scented scat on the highest ground they can find, which is usually a trail. Fresh scat really stinks.


 

4. PELLETS

White-tailed Deer

Small, round, individual scat shows deer has been browsing on things such as leaves twigs, and acorns. Lumpy scat is more indicative of a meal of easier to digest grasses, clover, and other forbs.


 

By Dick Brewer

http://www.dickbrewer.org/CREW.html

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