Tracking Wildlife: A Poopy Story

Wildlife

Poop — known as “manure” to farmers and “scat” to hunters — is mostly considered a trivial (and stinky) nuisance. Yet, it’s critical to successfully tracking wildlife movements and patterns. A modern, paved America shoulders much of the blame for dismissing poop, considering only 2 percent of Americans farm and only about 6 percent hunt, according to the USDA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, respectively.

Still, reports suggesting a rise in gardeners and hunters. “The New York Times” reported “Vegetable Gardens Are Booming … ” and this would indicate more manure used as fertilizer. Meanwhile, “Slate.com” identified a new type of hunter in a 2012 article titled, “Hipsters Who Hunt: More liberals are shooting their own supper.”

Eating locally and eating clean is hip. Young adults plant gardens and can their own vegetables. But there’s a dilemma for the omnivores among us: you can’t plant and grow meat in your garden plot so you have to hunt it. Hunting and gardening go hand-in-hand. Look at writer, television host and avid hunter Steven Rinella. The guy keeps his freezer full of wild game, while maintaining an 800-square-foot vegetable garden at his home in asphalt-laden Brooklyn.

If you want to hunt your own supper, knowing how to track wildlife is critical. And the ability to recognize and identify scat is critical to tracking. With that in mind, let’s take a look at varying types of scat, courtesy of Explore Bowhunting, a curriculum created to introduce young people to bowhunting and the natural environment.

Matching Scat to the Wildlife That Pooped It

All the wild game featured here can be legally hunted with a bow and arrow.

 Bear Scat

Black Bear Scat

Because black bears are omnivores, their scat can change. What they eat determines how their scat looks. For example, if a bear eats blackberries, its scat will resemble blackberries in color and odor, and the seeds will be visible. Scat of an adult black bear may range from 1 1/4 inches to 2 3/4 inches in diameter, and a cub’s scat may be as small as 3/4 inches in diameter. Photo: John Weller

 

Elk Scat

Elk Sign Scat

Oval pellets measure 3/4 to 1 1/2 inches long. Elk scat looks similar to that of deer but is bigger. During summer months when wet foods are eaten, elk scat may resemble small cow patties, measuring 5 to 6 inches in diameter. Photo: John Weller

 

Mule Deer Scat

Depending on the time of year and the available foliage, mule deer scat ranges between 1/2 to 1 inch in length and are elongated pellets. Photo: bentler.us (NOTE: We had a tough time finding a good photo of mule deer scat. But, take heart, it’s very similar to a white-tailed deer’s scat.)

White-Tailed Deer Scat

White-Tailed Deer Scat

Most of the year, deer scat consists of 20 to 30 elongated pellets that measure3/4 to 1 inch long. In late spring and early summer when food contains more water, pellet clumps are soft and may stick together in one large dropping. Photo: John Weller

 

Wild Turkey Scat

Wild Turkey Scat

Wild turkey scat is small, cylindrical and blunt on the ends. It is composed of plant and insect matter. Gobbler (male) scat typically forms a “J” shape whereas hen (female) scat forms a spiral. Photo: National Wild Turkey Federation

 

Tell Us About Your Wildlife Tracking Successes and Documented Clues?

If you like to talk about poop in a way that is considered totally not-disgusting, tell us about some of the scat you’ve seen in your backyard, while hiking the woods or walking around your neighborhood. Scat is everywhere!

 (Disclaimer: there’s no need to mention dog or cat scat sightings here.)


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