Droppings, Scat ID, &  Feces Identification

Identification of feces, also known as scat, can be a difficult task as feces change depending on the animal’s diet. However, by asking the right questions you can reduce the number of  suspects.

WARNING: Before you begin to identify scat, consider the health hazards associated it. Be safe. Droppings are dirty and have germs. Avoid handling droppings without proper protection and avoid inhaling near the droppings. If you have to touch droppings, use a tool and/or properly gloved hands. Some diseases may contracted through inhalation of or picking up dust-borne particles.

Important Observations to Make When Identifying Scat

Safety First!! Look, more than touch, as you may be exposed to diseases. If you have to touch, use a tool and/or properly gloved hands. STAY UP WIND!! Answering the following questions will help you to identify the source of the droppings.

  1. Determine its size both in length and width.
  2. Identify its form.
    • Is it round like a pellet?
    • Is it tubular, like a Tootsie Roll?
    • Are the ends flat or pointed, or is one end flat and the other pointed?
    • Is it smooth from one end to the other? Or is it segmented like a natural fibered rope?
  3. Is there one dropping or multiple?
  4. If multiple, are they in a pile or scattered about?
  5. Can you identify any hair or food particles in the droppings? Sometimes corn, berries, seeds, and insect wings aren’t completely digested.
  6. What time of day do you find the droppings? Would they have been left at night or during the day?
  7. Is it a one-time event or does it occur in the same general spot for several days?
  8. What is above the scat? Could it have been dropped from a tree or overhanging plant?
  9. What is the state and what is the habitat (woods, urban, suburban, agricultural etc.)?

Questions that rarely help identify feces.

  1. Color–color is a result of the animal’s diet, which can easily change.
  2. Consistency–generally speaking the softer the feces the fresher it is. Also, sometimes animals have diarrhea or constipation.