Missouri Scat Identification


Why is it important to know how to identify scat?

Whether you are a hunter or just someone who is simply exploring in the woods, it is always helpful to know what species are around you. Scat tells you a lot about the biodiversity of an area.

These are a few key reasons why it is smart to identify scat when you run, or step, into it:

  1. Scat reveals what animal species are in the area and what species are being eaten.
  2. Scat can be a marker for the animals to come back to. Most animals poop in an area that they are comfortable with and may want to make their home. 
  3. How moist or dry the scat is can tell you how long ago the animal was there. 
  4. Identifying scat can tell us whether or not the animal is sick or healthy. 

How to identify scat in Missouri:

Before identifying scat follow these rules so you don’t catch a disease:

  1. If collecting scat to observe more thoroughly always wear gloves and have a ziplock bag that seals shut. 
  2. If moving scat around to get a better look at it use a nearby stick or anything else other than your bare hands! 

These are a few steps you can take when trying to identify scat in Missouri:

  1. Look at shape! Thick, tubular shaped scat usually comes from mammals that eat meat such as bears, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, bobcats, badgers, otters, minks, skunks, and weasels. Smaller, pellet shaped scat comes typically from mammals that eat plants such as deer, rodents, rabbits, and squirrels

 

Pictured above is deer scat.

Pictured above is bear scat.

Deer and rabbit scat is hard to differentiate. Pictured above is a key on how to tell them apart.

    2. Look at size! Smaller scat usually comes from smaller sized creatures such as bats, birds, rodents, and even insects. 

 

Pictured above is rodent scat. It tends to be thin and only a few centimeters long.

Pictured above is bat scat. It looks very similar to rodent scat. They only way to differentiate would be to look at location, or to break it apart. Bat poop crumbles easily into a powder because bats’ diet consist of a lot of undigested insect parts. Rodent scat is slimy and squishy when fresh and turns hard over time. 

 

Pictured above is bird scat. They tend to be a few centimeters to an inch long and pasty white or discolored. It’s hard to identify a specific bird by it’s scat, but bird scat usually reveals where the bird is living or eating. 

Pictured above is cockroach scat. They tend to be one to two centimeters in length. It’s hard to find insect scat in the wilderness, but if you do you can now identify that it came simply from an insect and not a potentially dangerous wild animal.

Now that you know how to identify common scat, what do you do when you find it?

Well, for starters you can try not to step on it. It's never fun to have animal scat smeared on the bottom of your boot. You can leave it be and continue on your journey, or you can collect it to study it more intensely. If you are researching an area or wanting to be aware of your surroundings I would take note of the scat in a journal. You don't have to always collect to record. Knowing what animals are in the area can help to understand the biodiversity and system of the area you are in. 

Sources:

  1. Bauserman, Jace. “Learn to Track Wildlife Successfully by Identifying Scat.” Grand View Outdoors, 20 Mar. 2017, www.grandviewoutdoors.com/big-game-hunting/learn-track-wildlife-identifying-scat-poop/.
  2. Harris, Steve. “How to identify animal droppings.” Discover Wildlife, 14 July 2010, www.discoverwildlife.com/british-wildlife/how-identify-animal-droppings.
  3. “Mammal Facts.” MDC Discover Nature, nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/general-species-information/mammal-facts.
  4. “Scat and Pellets.” BioKIDS - Kids' Inquiry of Diverse Species, Scat and Pellets, www.biokids.umich.edu/guides/tracks_and_sign/leavebehind/scat/.
  5. Staff, Lancaste County. “Scat—But from what?” University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County - Home, lancaster.unl.edu/feature/guess7_26.htm.
  6. “Whose Scat is That?” Missouri Department of Conservation, 1 Aug. 2010, mdc.mo.gov/xplor/2010-08/whose-scat.
  7. Williams, Chris. “Bat Poop or Mouse Poop?” Colonial Pest Control, 18 Apr. 2016, www.colonialpest.com/bat-poop-mouse-poop/.