May 27, 2019

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Who Scat Here??

Animals by nature are very elusive creatures and for the most part we only see the sign they leave behind rather than the animal itself. One of the most common signs you’ll find left by animals is their scat. Scat for the those not familiar with the term is just a nicer way to refer to their solid wastes, droppings or simply put, poop!  Some animals do their business anywhere at any time and others will use the same spot or general area over and over again to stake out their territory.

Is it possible to tell what animal left a turd here or there? Certainly it is, all you need is a basic understanding of what animals inhabit the area, what those animals eat and a general idea of what shape and size each animals scat is. In some instances it helps to know the mentality of an animal as well, or better put, the audacity of an animal. All that said I come to the simple question of , who crapped on my deck?

By process of elimination I can narrow this right down to the most probable culprit. Where I live we have the following mammals: Woodchucks, Fishers, Pine Martens, Bobcat, Gray Fox, Coyotes, Raccoons, Otter, Mink, Black Bears, Porcupines, Beaver, Muskrat, Whitetails, Moose, Snowshoe Hare and a handful of small rodents like Chipmunks and Red Squirrels.  Your thinking that’s a fairly long list to whittle down to the exact animal aren’t you?  Well, its not really that hard and here are the simple deductions with a just a little bit of knowledge mixed in.

  • Squirrels and small rodent have rice-like scat, so it’s definitely not one of those.
  • Beavers, Otters, Mink and Muskrats are aquatic animals and there is no water nearby so we can scratch them off.
  • Snowshoe Hare, Whitetail Deer and Moose, their scat is most often in a pellet form, think of Raisenettes or Malted Milkballs, definitely not them, and what would a deer be doing on my deck?   Hey… it’s happened before but just not this time.
  • Woodchuck?   Nope, Woodchucks always, 99% of the time deficate in one of their underground chambers made especially for that purpose.

OK, we eliminated a few possibilites and now were left with the choices of Pine Marten, Fisher,  Coyote, Gray Fox, Raccoon, Black Bear, Bobcat or Porcupine. If we look at the scat itself it has hair in it which means that whatever dropped a load on my deck ate another animal or in scientific terminology is a carnivore, but wait, there’s also berry seeds in the scat making our carnivore now an omnivore. Omnivore is just another fancy term for an animal that eats both plants and meat (meat= another unfortunate animal). 

  • We can immediately scratch off the Porcupine because they are herbivores and only eat plants.
  • Fishers, Bobcats and Martens are going to stick with meat so we won’t be finding seeds in their poop… drop them off the list.

Wow!! We’re getting down there in number aren’t we? We only have 4 possibilities left: Gray Fox, Coyote, Raccoon or Black Bear. All 4 are omnivores and we could go by size and shape of the scat to eliminate these four further down but were going to look at it from a different perspective. Mentality or Audacity, which animal of the four animals left would be fearless enough to come up on my deck and relieve themselves.  Definitely not a fox or coyote their just way to skitish to even think about it. So were left with Mr. Raccoon or Mr. Bear both oppurtunists by nature seeking out the easiest meal they can get. We can simply just go by size now, a Black Bears scat is from 1 1/4 inches to up to 2  inches in diameter. Or scat is clearly smaller than an 1 1/4 inches in diameter. so the question of “Who Scat Here” is unmistakably Mr. Raccoon!!

On a more serious note, NEVER, EVER touch, smell or taste animal scat!  Always wear gloves and use a stick to probe scat when identifying it. Raccoon Scat in particular may contain the larva of  parasitic roundworms which if inhaled or ingested can cause serious illness or even death!

Enjoy Nature !!

What’s More Exciting than a Moose Track?

I guess the answer to that question really depends on where you live.  If your out West I’m sure a Grizzly track would undoubtedly take your breath away.  I know that from first hand experience and I can certainly say there isn’t a track I have found that really makes you pay more attention to your surroundings like a Grizzly track does.  But where I live there isn’t anything more exciting than discovering a Moose track .   

There was a time when you would have been hard pressed to come across a Moose track in the Adirondacks but over the past decade they seem to be reestablishing themselves with a resident population. I went on 4 hikes last year within the blue line, as far as 50 miles from home to the north of me and 5 miles to the west.

On three out of those 4 hikes I found Moose Tracks, statistically that’s a HUGE percentage.  It wasn’t like I was going out of my way either looking for Moose tracks or scat, they just happened to be wherever I was going.   There is no way being in the East you can confuse a Moose track with any other animal. Measuring 5 to 6 inches in length not even the largest Whitetail Deer could come close to leaving a track that large.  If your getting into Elk country their tracks average out at 4 to 4 3/4 inches long so there’s still a fair difference in size to be able to tell the two animals apart especially if your finding tracks in the 6 inch range.

One of the best tips  for tracking is to always carry a tape measure. What I use and by far the most convenient in my opinion is a cloth or vinyl seamstress tape.  If you roll it up they take virtually no space in your pack or camera bag. I usually cut mine down at the 12 inch mark there’s no need for you to be lugging along a full 60 inch tape with you. You can just as easily step the tape off at one foot increments to measure strides. I’d be a poor salesman if I didn’t mention that the MyNature Animal Track app has a built in tape measure for just such an occasion.

Getting back to our Moose, you have a much better chance at locating a track if there is some type of water near by, a stream, creek, beaver pond, lake or river.  In the picture to the left you can actually see the difference in the size of a Moose track and a Whitetail Deer. The Whitetail tracks are heading across the image and the Moose tracks are coming out from the water.

Now that the Moose is back to stay in the Adirondacks you’ll inevitably come across a pile of scat at some point in time. Again the sheer size of Moose scat is enough to give away the animals identity. Moose scat has the same familiar shape as other deer scat.  Moose scat measures 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch in diameter and from 1 to 1- 1/2 inches long, more than twice the size of the more commonly found deer scat. Moose tracks and scat are an incredible find in the wilderness and one of the more exciting ones at that. If your lucky enough to come across either you may just get a glimpse of their owner, keep a sharp eye out and your camera at the ready.  Happy Tracking !!