Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Knowing Squat Versus Not Knowing Squart

Fox scat to the left, raccoon scat to the right.

Winter is starting to blow out and Spring is starting to blow in. A few groundhogs are beginning to move about, and the earth-blocked settes of winter, are starting to be opened up as amorous male marmots begin to look for receptive females.

Fox will soon be whelping, if they haven't already. A few weeks after having their kits in large-entrance natal dens, the vixen will pick up the pups and move them to a smaller, less conspicuous hedgerow hole.

Now is a good time to review basic sign, particularly scat, as an observant person can generally tell what kind of creature has been about, and even what it has been eating and where it might be headed.

Fox scat is easily identified, as it is pointed on both ends and almost always has hair in it -- mostly mice or rat, but perhaps a small rabbit, a bit of roadkill, game bird, or gut shot deer as well.

Raccoon scat is easily differentiated from fox scat. Raccoon dung always has blunt ends and is quite uniform in thickness, looking a bit like a thin, blunt-cut, cigar. Raccoon dung is much more likely to contain a great deal of vegetable matter, such as berries and bits of acorn, and only rarely has hair in it. While fox dung can be any color (black, brown, tan, white, greenish or bluish), raccoon scat is almost always quite dark due to the large amounts of vegetable matter.

Look for fox scat at the edge of fields, particularly along paths or mows where corn or soy fields border woods, as this is the "mouse and rabbit zone" where a fox can trot along very quietly listening for scurrying mice.

Fox will often deposit their scat on stones, rises, stumps, walls or tree trunks that border their patrol areas -- a form of territory marking.

Raccoon scat can be found anywhere, but it too is commonly found along the edges of fields and at the entrance to larger groundhog dens where they may have slept off the night.

The closer you are to water, the more likely you are to find raccoon. Multiflora rose thickets and dense brushy spots along stream banks near corn fields are particularly likely spots.

For a guide to other common North American animal scat, click here.

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