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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Login to Critter Scat

Today I will take a break from black bears to talk about scat. I took advantage of the warm weather (Spring Break = no classes) today to take a hike at Howland Island Wildlife Management Area in Savanna, NY. It was a good day for critter sign! I got some nice track and scat photos.

Today we are going to look at an array of animal scat found on logs:

Male Ruffed Grouse scat (Campbell, NY 3/11)
Ruffed Grouse: In the spring of the year, male grouse use logs as drumming platforms. They drum by beating the air with their wings. This is the "song" of the ruffed grouse and is used to attract females. We found this scat on the way to our second black bear den this past Tuesday.

The white in the scat is uric acid. Birds do not urinate, but instead get rid of their nitrogenous waste in their scat.



Raccoon scat (Howland Island WMA, 3/11)
Raccoon: Raccoons use logs to travel and often leave scat behind to mark their passing. The first photo is relatively fresh. Raccoons are opportunistic feeders, so their scat can contain plant and animal components. And when a fruit or mast crop becomes ripe, a scat may be almost completely made up of the one food source. That is the case with our next photo...

Here is an extremely old scat. I assume this is raccoon based on the volume and the location. In fact, the scat is so old, all that is left is a pile of indigestible skins from some small fruit.

Old raccoon scat, indigestible fruit skins
(Howland Island WMA, 3/11)
 I learned to look for these "ancient" scats after finding a pile of seeds this summer in Massachusetts. I just couldn't figure out what animal would have left so many cherry seeds piled in the open on the forest floor. Val walked up, looked down and solved the mystery by saying: "Huh, old bear scat." and walked away.




Muskrat: The last scat for today is muskrat. Beaver normally defecate in the water but 'rats usually scat on some object. Today, I found muskrat scat (muskscat?) on rocks, logs and and piece of ground that rose above the water.

Muskrat scat (Howland Island NWR, 3/11)

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