Scat is the scientific word for feces, dung or animal secretments. All animals have a distinct type of scat so scat is often used as a novel tracking tool. Below are descriptions of some of the more common animals to be found and descriptions of their scat.
Coyote scat is one of the easiest animal scats to find at IslandWood because coyotes like to leave droppings conspicuously—often in the middle of a trail or clearing! Coyote scat is cylindrical, about 1 inch in diameter, and each dropping is generally 3 to 4 inches in length. Often coyote scat will have one “pinched” end, which makes it easier to differentiate from the droppings of a pet dog. The color and makeup of coyote scat varies widely depending on the current diet of the coyote. A fruit (berries, crab apples, etc) heavy diet will produce light-colored, crumbly scat. On the other hand, a meat-only diet will produce a black, semiliquid scat.
Black-tailed deer scat generally looks like a pile of 20 to 30 almost spherical droppings. The individual droppings are generally ½ to ¾ inch long. The piles of droppings are usually about 4 to 6 inches across. Deer droppings will appear shiny and wet for a few days after being left, and then will begin to dry out.
Raccoon scat is generally crumbly and in less distinct pieces than coyote scat. An individual dropping is about ½ inch in diameter and 1 to 2 inches long. Similar to a house cat, raccoons often create “toilet areas” that they return to again and again, generally at the base of a tree or on a log. Raccoon scat contains toxins that can be fatal to humans so DO NOT PICK IT UP OR TOUCH IT!
Owls, like most birds, swallow their food whole and do not have any way to chew it up. Their food is digested in their gizzard, which uses acids to dissolve it and make it digestible. Anything that is left—feathers and bones, most often—congeals into an owl pellet and is expelled from the owl by spasms in the esophagus. Owl pellets are generally found below where an owl is roosting, which is usually either a tree or near a building.
Cougar scat is cylindrical, segmented, and has blunt ends. Generally, an individual dropping is about 4 to 6 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. Cougars cover up their scat with loose soil, much like a house cat does. Because cougars have such sharp teeth and can actually cut bones with their teeth, cougar scat often has a lot of hair and bone pieces in it.
ELEPHANT POO PAPER
Looking for holiday gifts? How about some paper made out of elephant poo? Making paper out of skat is a great example of recycling to share with your students on the trail and with your families during the holidays.
Check out the following links:
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, "Living With Wildlife Factsheets" http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/species/
Scats and Tracks of the Pacific Coast, James C. Halfpenny, Ph.D