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How to Identify Scat

Hunters, naturalists, farmers, and simply the curious find scat -- animal waste -- a helpful tool to learn about animals. You'll uncover many secrets of the animal kingdom when you know how to identify scat.

Instructions

  • Step 1: Obtain a scat sample Obtain a scat sample, making sure to handle it using tools or gloves.
  • Step 2: Match the shape and size Match the scat shape and size to its animal family. Scat that looks like fattened threads indicates the weasel family, while scat that looks like M&Ms is most likely rabbit or hare droppings. Check a field guide for descriptions of the scat characteristics of major families.
  • TIP: The larger the animal, the larger the scat.
  • Step 3: Quarter the scat Quarter the scat with a knife; then use a toothpick to pick away the edges. Examine the inside, looking for hints of bones, feathers, hair, corn, or berries to match the animal's diet to its species.
  • Step 4: Note the time of day Note the time of day on your watch that the scat is found to determine whether the animal is nocturnal, keeping in mind soft scat indicates freshness.
  • Step 5: Note the color Note the scat color, but realize color changes as a result of seasonal foods that an animal eats.
  • TIP: Scat found in winter may contain twigs and bark.
  • Step 6: Note the location Note the location where scat is found to help identify the animal's habitat.
  • Step 7: Consult a field guide Consult a field guide and match your observations to the book's facts to learn what animal has been visiting. If you are ambitious, go high-tech and seek a scientist to run a DNA test on the scat. Thanks to this analysis, you may know more about the animal than you do your best friend.
  • FACT: Scat detection dogs help scientists locate both land and marine animals.

You Will Need

  • Gloves or handling tool
  • Field guide
  • Knife or razor
  • Toothpicks
  • Watch

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