Here's how you identify the most characteristic animal poops

Discover the most characteristic types of animal poop and learn what they tell us about the animals that produce them..
Christopher McFadden
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  • Animal poop may not be the most glamorous topic, but it can tell us much about the animal that left it behind.
  • From the size and shape of the poop to its texture and color, animal waste can provide important insights into an animal's diet, habitat, and health.
  • Some animal poop is so distinctive that it's instantly recognizable, while others are less well-known but just as fascinating.

Something of a coprophile we see? Well, you've come to the right place, traveler. 

So, in the following few thousand words, we'll closely examine some of the most characteristic animal poops, what they can tell us, and why they're so important. So, buckle up and get ready for a wild ride through the world of animal excrement.

But before you read on, please note that we have included videos and images of real-life animal poos

If that sounds too disgusting to look at or watch, then please click off now. For everyone else, enjoy and happy poo-hunting!

What do you call animal poop?

There are actually a wide variety of terms used for animal poop. This will vary from location to location and between professions. 

For scientists, the technical term is feces, for example. Other standard terms include dung, excrement, animal droppings, spoor, and scat (though usually for carnivores only -- though not always).

Farmers will also tend to refer to cow or chicken poo specifically as manure. As you are probably aware such droppings tend to be used as fertilizer. 

Human poo tends to be called stool by medical professionals -- though we are confident you have an entire lexicon of slang or swear words for it too. 

Which animal produces the biggest poops?

So, which animal drops the largest poop? An elephant? A giraffe? A hippo?

Actually it is none of these. The largest animal poop in the natural world belongs to that of the blue whale.

Each bowel movement of these enormous, magnificent creatures can be more than several hundred liters of excrement at a time!

"The blue whale is the largest animal on the planet. Its poo is described as smelling like a dog's, with the consistency of bread crumbs. A blue whale can excrete up to 200 liters of poo in one bowel movement."

Are there any animals that don't poop?

As a matter of fact yes there are: 

  • Tardigrades - These little alien-like critters only excrete when they molt. So any "fecal" matter produced is not pooped out as we would describe it.
  • Demodex mites (face mites) - These little stowaways lack any form of an anus. They store up any waste in special large cells in their intestines. This waste is stored for their entire life until they eventually die.
  • Jellyfish - Jellyfish is yet another animal that lacks an anus. Though they excrete waste, they don't technically poop like most animals.

How do you identify animals from their poop?

So, without further ado, here is how to identify 7 animals from their poop. Given the enormous diversity of animals worldwide, trust us when we say this list is far from exhaustive.

It is also, funnily enough, in no particular order -- it would seem a bit odd to rank animal poo. Perhaps that's just us?

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1. Deer droppings are pretty characteristic

Here's how you identify the most characteristic animal poops
Deer droppings are very easy to spot.

Deer feces or fewmets (as it is sometimes called), is a very characteristic animal dropping. They tend to look like Raisinets or pellet-shaped pieces that are usually either dark brown or sometimes black.

They also tend to be scattered in neat piles around a deer's habitat. During summer and fall (autumn), their droppings can be found clumped together when their diet consists of high-moisture foods like berries, apples and succulent plants.

During colder months, their droppings will tend to be lighter in color and are usually harder than during the summer. This is because their diet at this time of year consists of woody fibers.

The larger the pile of deer poop the larger the animal who made them. Interestingly, if you find larger, shiny piles in heavy cover this usually indicates it came from a buck deer's bedding area. 

2. Brown and Black Beer poo is pretty gross, to be honest

Brown and black bear poop are similar, with brown bear droppings tending to be larger. If you are out and about where these magnificent animals roam and you find a big pile of poo, it's probably made by a bear.

Bear poo is very similar to human poo -- it is tubular (usually) but is obviously usually larger. Depending on what the bear has eaten, the poo will usually be tubular, with a blunt end and a slight taper.

While bears prefer eating meat and carrion, their poo can also include grass, roots, and fruits. It is also possible to find poos with the remains of ants, pine nuts and berries.

If the bear has been gorging on other animals, expect to find bones, hair and other fibers present. 

If the bear has just been eating strawberries or fish, their poos can be more semi-liquid than normal. On this occasion, their poo resembles a cow pile or pat. 

3. Mountain lion poop is quite obvious too

Mountain lion poop or scat is another characteristic kind of animal droppings. Pieces are about 5 inches long (12.7 cm) and 1.25 inches in diameter (3.1cm). 

Careful examination should reveal the presence of bones and hair. Mountain lions will tend to scratch out area of leaf litter or soil before "doing their business" too. 

Their droppings are usually also partially or completely covered in order to cover their scent from larger predators. This is similar to the habits of domestic cats.

The characteristic combination of location, size and contents is a pretty good indicator of the origin.

4. Wild turkey poo is also very obvious

Here's how you identify the most characteristic animal poops
Wild turkey poo is interesting.

Wild turkeys are quite an interesting animal when it comes to their poop. Male and female members of the species produce very different droppings.

A female turkey's poop tends to look like a kind of spiral blob about 3/8 inch (1 cm) in diameter. They look like a snail shells with one white end (this is uric acid). 

The males are very different. It tends to form an approximate J-shape. 

This is because the males have the so-called “rudimentary internal sex organs.” In circumstances where you find a lot of similar droppings associated with feathers under a tree, you've probably stumbled on a roost site.

5. Raccoon poop is "interesting"

Raccoon poo is fairly characteristic in shape and location. These little critters tend to habitually defecate in so-called raccoon "latrines" for extended periods of time.

These tend to be found at the bases of trees, in tree forks, raised areas or fallen trees, to name but a few. The poops themselves tend to range from black to reddish. However, they will bleach and turn white over time. This is owing to their omnivorous lifestyle.

Poops are often granular-looking, tend to be segmented and roughly tube-shaped and can be between 2 inches (5 cm) and 3 inches (7.5 cm) long. 

Raccoon poop tends to break down very easily when disturbed and can resemble dog poo at times. However, it will tend to contain undigested food like seeds and hair. A word of warning about raccoon droppings, however. Do not touch them or go near them -- they often contain parasitic roundworms and eggs. 

6. Rat poop is very unpleasant

Rat poop is another pretty characteristic animal poop. It tends to be brown or shiny-black in color and solid in texture.

They usually measure about half an inch in length (1.25 cm). Rat droppings are roughly oval-shaped and may taper to a point at one or both ends. 

Mice droppings are similar, but as they are smaller animals, their poop tends to be smaller and is usually smoother with pointed ends. 

If you find rat droppings in your home, it is usually a good indicator you have a rat infestation or regular "visitors." Look for them in the attic, under floorboards, or furniture -- especially in the kitchen. 

7. Snake poop is also very obvious (if you can find it)

And lastly, but by no means least, is the poop of snakes. These tend to be oblong, liquid droppings that can have a white cap of urea.

You should be able to see obvious bits of bone and hair remains of their prey in them too. As snakes have one external opening (cloaca) to remove their solid and liquid waste, their poop is usually a mixture of white urea and the remains of their last meal. 

Snake poo can be hard to find as they can go for weeks without eating. If you find large quantities of it, it is unlikely it has come from a snake -- unless you have an Indiana Jones-style dungeon somewhere. 

And that is your lot for today.

So, while animal poop may seem like an unsavory topic, it can be a fascinating and informative window into the animal kingdom. By paying attention to the size, shape, and texture of different animal droppings, we can better understand the animals that produce them and the ecosystems they inhabit.

So, next time you encounter some animal poop on your outdoor adventures, look closer - you might .learn something new!

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