Let’s Find Out What Animal is Pooping in Your Yard So You Can Take The Right Action to Stop it.
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23 Minute Read
Scatology or Coprology is the study of poop or excrement. Analyzing poop is as old as pooping itself. The ancient Chinese, Egyptians, and Greeks all analyzed human feces in an attempt to diagnose and treat all nature of illnesses. People believed you could tell fortunes or the future by evaluating someone’s poop. Still today, doctors often ask patients when their last bowel movement was. For both animals and humans, poop is an important and natural function, and with the right tools, it can reveal a treasure trove of information.
Poop… perhaps no other word in the English language has more euphemisms than poop. Whether you call it scat, dung, turds, fecal matter, excrement, droppings, crap, number 2, take a dump, bowel movement, stool, waste, or simply the “s” word, most people know exactly what you are referring to.
Scatology and coprology are both derived from Greek root words for poop. Evaluating poop tells researchers and doctors much about our bodies and diseases. Recently a Classics Professor teamed up with doctors to produce an etymologically correct medical term for the experiment on human poop. This required a thorough exploration of the Latin words for poop. There were 4 Latin words that referred to poop, laetamen, merda, stercus, and fimus.
Laetamen – seemed to most often be used in farming and animal dung
Merda – remains a Romance language word for poop, but relates to the smell or stink
Stercus ¬– the common Roman term for poop, but evolved into a curse word
Fimus – the term used by Roman writers Virgil, Livy, and Tacitus
If fimus was good enough for Virgil, it should be good enough for current usage. Therefore, the chosen medical/scientific term for an experiment based on poop is in fimo. Although this bit of fun seems unnecessary when there are already so many word choices; preserving and utilizing Latin is important to scientists of all stripes.
Why Identify Wildlife Poop?
Animal poop identification has been an important tool since the beginning of time. By paying attention to poop on the path, skilled hunters could know which animals were in the area. By evaluating the warmth and freshness of a dung pile, a hunter could know how close the bear or elk might be. Whether humans were the hunter or potentially the hunted, dung piles along the path alerted many astute hunters to danger or reward. The plains Indians used bison chips or dung for fuel when wood was scarce. The Sioux called bison dung “nik-nik” which refers to any bovine feces.
Piles of scat in nature are a wealth of information to biologists, naturalists, and researchers. Scientists can determine not only which animals are present and what they are eating, but a detailed analysis of poop can also help scientists determine the health of the overall ecosystem. DNA can be extracted from poop and individual animals can be identified and studied by scooping their poop. By analyzing animal poop scientists can measure things like stress and reproductive hormones, toxins in the environment, and the availability of food in the environment. Zoos working with the critically endangered white rhino measure hormone levels in their poop to ensure successful mating. To ensure they are monitoring the correct dung pile, they mix a specific color of non-toxic glitter with the rhino’s meal. When they need a specific sample, they simply search the enclosure for droppings with red or blue glitter!
Some scientists even study the physics of poop. Which animal species turds sink vs which species turds do not sink. Scientists have measured and quantified the odor of animal scat, from least smelly to overwhelmingly odorous. It was determined that larger animals defecate faster than smaller animals. Of course, they release more excrement, but it takes about the same amount of time for an elephant to do his business as a dog. In case you were wondering, elephants release poop at about 6 cm per second; a human releases poop at about 2 cm per second.
Despite the truly important scientific data derived from a steaming pile of dung, many people have reduced the discussion around poop to toilet humor and jokes. It seems innate that little boys find poop and other manner of potty humor amusing to no end.
Identifying Types of Wildlife Poop
All fun aside, you are probably here because you have channeled your inner naturalist and have located a mysterious pile of poo somewhere in or near your home or business. You too can tell a lot about the nearby wildlife by locating and examining poop. Sometimes poop is an indicator of wildlife getting too close for comfort. Whether the mysterious poop is in your attic or on your back deck, learn to quickly identify your potential nuisance species of wildlife by identifying their poop.
Every parent who has ever changed a diaper quickly becomes an expert in what a “normal” bowel movement looks like for their child. Diapers that “don’t look right” have been the impetus for many anxious calls to the pediatrician. Similarly, the excrement of every animal species has unique characteristics. Based on the food and amount of moisture they consume, their overall size, and the shape of the intestines and exit hole, each species of animal’s poop has distinguishing characteristics. For example, beaver poop looks like wood chips tightly compressed together, and wombat feces is ejected in the shape of a cube.
You probably don’t have wombats or beavers in your attic, but differentiating between bat guano and squirrel pellets could definitely be relevant to the health and safety of your home. Continue reading and looking at the pictures of common nuisance wildlife droppings to help you identify who might be hanging around your home.
Squirrels are busy little critters typically found jumping from tree to tree. You are unlikely to notice squirrel droppings outdoors, but when they move into your home, you will most definitely notice the droppings. The most common squirrels to invade homes are the Eastern Grey Squirrel and the Gray Squirrel. There are over 350 distinct species of squirrels in the world with different available foods to them. Just as a beagle and labrador retriever will have different size droppings, squirrel droppings will vary slightly according to species and diet.
Often, when a large accumulation of droppings is located, people usually assume it is rat or mouse excrement. Squirrel poop has some variation in size, but is usually around 3/8” in length and 1/8” in diameter. It is oblong in shape with rounded tips and a slightly overstuffed appearance in the center. Many people describe it as the shape of a small bean. Fresh squirrel droppings are reddish or rusty brown to darker brown. As the pellets age, they begin to lighten to a chalky color and consistency. If a squirrel family has been nesting in your attic for a while, the pile of squirrel scat will contain many droppings in various colors.
In most cases, squirrel droppings will be found throughout the area they are inhabiting, but they will not poop in their nest. In fact, when a baby squirrel cannot yet leave the nest, the mother squirrel removes the baby’s poop from the nest. Squirrel droppings may be found accumulated by their entry hole, another pile mixed with nut and seed debris in a “dining room” of sorts, and near squirrel hiding places throughout the attic space.
When squirrels are nesting in your attic, they are quite active and pretty easy to hear. If you find squirrels have been nesting, eating, and pooping in your attic, you should make arrangements to remove the squirrels, seal the entry hole, and clean the area as quickly as possible. Nextgen Pest Solutions Nuisance Wildlife team can take care of your squirrels… and their poop.
Flying Squirrel Droppings
Flying squirrels nesting in your home presents a unique challenge. Flying squirrels are smaller than the Eastern Grey Squirrel or the Grey Squirrel, but they are more social. They generally invade in larger numbers than other squirrels. There may be more than one flying squirrel family sharing your attic. If so, you could have between 12 – 30 flying squirrels breeding, eating, nesting, and using the bathroom in your attic.
Flying squirrels are more likely than other species of squirrels to utilize what we call latrine bathroom habits. If you see piles of waste confined to particular areas, that may be flying squirrels. Flying squirrel poop is smaller than regular squirrel poop; it is usually ¼” to ⅜” in length with rounded edges.
Chipmunks are typically ground-dwelling rodents. They prefer to burrow in lawns or flower beds, often digging up areas near the sidewalk or foundation. They are not often found indoors, but occasionally they find themselves in a basement or an enclosed porch. A chipmunk indoors is likely not nesting; they truly prefer to be outside, but its presence does alert you that your home is accessible to rats, mice, squirrels, and other nuisance wildlife.
Consider chipmunks if you find holes about 2” in diameter in your yard or near the foundation of your home. Humans rarely see chipmunk feces. You will not likely find fecal matter at the entrance of the burrow or the surrounding area. Chipmunks build quite elaborate burrows with many chambers on the inside. They have different compartments for sleeping, storing food, and discarding waste such as fecal pellets and food waste. Chipmunk burrows may be up to 3 feet deep and extend 30 feet in length. By pooping only inside their chambers, chipmunks lessen the likelihood of a predator knowing they are in the area and finding their burrow.
Should you be so lucky to locate chipmunk poop, size wise it is between the poop of a rat and a mouse. Chipmunk droppings are about ½” in length and cylindrical in shape with pointed ends. Where rat and mouse droppings are dark in color, chipmunk droppings tend to be lighter in color.
Racoon poop is similar in shape and size to many breeds of dogs. It is usually tube-shaped and 2-3” in length. It is usually dark brown in color. Before you begin to curse your neighbor’s dog, poke the waste with a stick. If it is indeed raccoon poop, you will pretty easily see remnants of berries, seeds, and other vegetation the raccoon has been feasting upon. You don’t usually find raspberry seeds and corn kernels in dog poop!
Despite their sometimes aggressive behavior, raccoons have a reputation for being hygiene conscious. It is debatable whether raccoons wash their food to clean it or simply to remove dirt so they can know for sure what it is they are about to consume. In the wild, raccoons often forage near bodies of water for food and are therefore often observed near water. Another example of raccoons’ hygienic nature is their tendency to use latrine behavior. This simply means they do not tend to poop and pee indiscriminately. They choose a location to use as a toilet and return to that location when the need arises.
Outdoors, this means that they will accumulate their waste at the base of a particular tree or underneath a specific bush or structure. This is not to say, they always make it to the toilet in time. Raccoons thriving in your yard may let droppings fall near the entry of your pool as they wash their food. This will alert you that raccoons have everything they need in your yard… food, water, and shelter.
If you have raccoons nesting indoors, the latrine area can be overpowering. A family of raccoons nesting in your attic can accumulate quite a pile of droppings if allowed to persist. Even raccoons underneath a porch or a deck will have to be removed due to the odor emanating from the nearby toilet. The act of defecating and urinating on top of previous waste can create an air quality and health hazard inside your attic or wherever raccoons are hiding. When insulation and other building materials are used as a raccoon toilet for an extended period of time, you risk expensive damage and repairs.
Regarding the critters that sometimes nest in your attic, raccoon droppings are pretty unique and easy to identify. Risk specific to raccoon droppings is a disease called Bayliscacaris procyonis. This is essentially a roundworm acquired from raccoon poop. This illness can be difficult to diagnose but can be dangerous or even to humans. A raccoon latrine should be thoroughly cleaned and deodorized after the raccoons have been evicted from the area. If this is not within the confines of your Do-It-Yourself comfort zone, give us a call at Nextgen Pest Solutions. Our team of nuisance wildlife experts can identify the scat and remove the raccoon, whether they are in your attic or causing trouble in your yard.
Rat infestations bring with them a myriad of nightmarish scenarios. Rats spread disease and bacteria and their numerous droppings help to spread the unpleasant germs around. Rat droppings are often one of the first signs of a rat infestation. Rats are considered super poopers. Rats can defecate up to 60 times per day and often live together in groups. Rat poop accumulates fast! A severe rat infestation can lead to excessive amounts of poop in attics, kitchens, and anywhere else rats head for food and water.
Squirrel Poop vs. Rat Poop
When determining what kind of critter made that pile, squirrel droppings are often confused with rat droppings. They are both similarly sized rodents, but a careful inspection can help you narrow down the species of your intruder. Rat droppings are generally ½” – ¾” in length and dark brown in color. Rat droppings are oval-shaped and may taper to a point on the ends. Squirrel pellets tend to be more rounded at the ends with a bulge in the middle. In addition, the color of squirrel poop tends to lighten as it ages, whereas rat feces keeps its dark brown to blackish color.
Distinguishing between rat and squirrel droppings may require looking for anecdotal evidence as well. Rats run along wall edges and the grease from their bodies often leaves a gray smudge along well-traveled paths. This evidence points towards a rat infestation. Squirrels are relatively vocal creatures. While you may hear an occasional scurry or bump from the mischief of rats, you will almost certainly hear daytime scurrying and rustling about, rolling of nuts, and squeaking sounds, especially if there are babies in an attic nest. Using fecal matter and supplemental information to identify the critter in your attic, you can immediately begin the process of removing the critter and cleaning up their mess.
Norway Rat Poop vs. Roof Rat Poop
The two major pest species of rats in the United States are roof rats and Norway rats. Narrowing down your target species is important in gaining infestation elimination because their behaviors and tendencies are different. For instance, trap placement and bait offered will be different depending upon whether you are targeting roof rats or Norway rats. Many of the distinguishing factors between the two species are visual, but often you don’t have the luxury of laying eyes on your target. If you can get your hands on some fecal droppings, you may be able to determine roof rat or Norway rat and place your traps and bait boxes accordingly. Knowing your target species may help you resolve the infestation quicker, which is always a good thing!
Norway Rat – Potato-shaped poop
The most common type of rat found in the United States – also called brown rat, street rat, common rat, or sewer rat
Brown or grey in color
The adult is usually 7 – 10” in length
The tail is slightly shorter than the body length
Tends to nest lower, such as in sewers, burrows in the soil, and basements
Roof Rat – Banana-shaped poop
Less common than Norway rats, populations concentrated in coastal areas and seaport cities in the southern United States – also called black rat, ship rat, or old English rat
Darker in color ranging from black to brown, with a lighter underbody
An adult is usually between 6 – 8” inches in length (much smaller than the Norway rat)
The tail is slightly longer than the body
Tends to nest higher, such as attics, and upper branches of trees (especially palm fronds), and may damage eves or ridge vents.
If you are dependent upon differentiating rat species by poop, it is possible. The more common Norway rats are larger, therefore their droppings are larger. Their droppings may measure up to ¾” in length and have blunt ends. Sometimes Norway rat poop is described as potato-shaped. Droppings of the smaller and less common visitor, the roof rat, are smaller, around ½” and have pointed ends; think of it as more banana shaped. Fresh rat droppings are soft and moist, whereas old droppings are hard and dried.
Mice are common intruders where food, water, and shelter abound. Once mice gain entry to your home, they can hide inconspicuously for a long time… until you start to notice mouse droppings. Mice can hide inside of walls, in the attic or basement, behind appliances, in cabinets, in utility closets, and even in desk drawers. These out-of-the-way areas hide their fecal matter, but when the mouse comes out at night, he leaves behind him evidence of his night-time escapades.
Mice can drop between 50-70 pellets per day. They indiscriminately fall as they travel along their path, gather nesting materials, or feast upon your pantry snacks. A large accumulation of mouse droppings may give you clues as to the extent of the mouse invasion or how close you are to the nesting hiding place. Many people do not necessarily mind mice in their homes and do not want to see them killed or injured. However, it is important to realize that an unabated mouse presence can lead to large accumulations of fecal matter in your home. This can be unsanitary and dangerous and is not recommended.
Mice droppings are shaped very similar to rat droppings but are much smaller in length and diameter. Mouse droppings, on average, are 1/8” long, whereas rat droppings are between ½” – ¾” in length. Mouse and most rat droppings are pointed as opposed to blunt on the ends. Mouse droppings that are moist and dark in color are relatively fresh. As they age, mouse droppings become crumbly, and very old mouse droppings become powdery.
Now that you can identify mouse droppings, and distinguish them from rat droppings, use all of the information that the mouse droppings can give you. Areas of poop concentration may indicate a nest is nearby. Follow poop trails to pantries, utility closets, the garage, and anywhere else these little critters may be hiding. There are many mouse traps that capture multiple mice at a time without hurting them. These detained mice can then be released outdoors. Mice can access your home using the smallest of holes. A tiny gap around vents, plumbing, windows, and doors will allow mice to gain access to your home. If you live in an area where mouse entry is a yearly occurrence, learn to recognize mice droppings, and have a plan in place to remove the mice and clean the affected area.
Bats are credited with being nature’s original pest control. Bats are beneficial in that they eat insects, pollinate night-blooming flowers, and their droppings are an excellent fertilizer. That being said, bats belong outdoors. When bats take up residence in your home or attic, they cause a lot of damage.
Bat exclusion is a tricky business and requires knowledge of federal, state, and local laws. Some states protect bats to the extent that you can not exclude them from your home during certain times of the year. Excluding adult bats, while immobile babies are present in your attic will result in all the babies dying. This is not only tragic for the bats, but it also exponentially compounds the problem in your home. Bat exclusion should be done by an experienced professional.
The United States Geological Survey, the scientific agency for the Department of the Interior, estimates that a single little brown bat eats between 4-8 grams of insects every evening. The tragic loss of a million bats in the northeast United States resulted in between 660 and 1320 metric tons of insects not being eaten by bats. Because of their excessive food input, the bat’s output is extreme as well. Bats poop about 30 times per day. Many attic bat infestations have well over 1,000 bats, sometimes up to 3,000 bats. The sheer quantity of bat guano generated by this number of bats is overwhelming. In a severe bat infestation, the depth of bat guano can be measured in feet and it can cause structural damage to the ceiling of the home.
Excessive fecal accumulation encourages other insects and predators to enter the area. One attic we cleaned up had small trees growing where sunlight peeked through damage in the roof, a year’s worth of bat guano, and snakes had entered the area to pick off insects and rodents. An entire ecosystem was thriving inside this attic, all based upon bat guano!
It is quite obvious when bats are nesting in your attic. You will see them fly from the structure at dusk each evening, and a quick visual check of the attic may reveal thousands of bats. The odor of a bat-infested attic leaves no doubt that the situation must be dealt with immediately. Bat poop is usually identified by its sheer volume, but taken singularly, bat guano is cylindrical in shape with semi-rounded ends. It is usually brown, dark brown, or grey in color, and tends to glisten when light hits it. The iridescence in bat guano is the reflection of all of the insects the bats have consumed. As bat guano amasses, it loses its individual shape and size characteristics and merges into a solid mass. Bat guano is a serious health and safety concern and should be thoroughly cleaned and deodorized.
Bears are omnivores, meaning they eat meat and vegetation. Contrary to their reputation, bears consume mostly vegetation, seeds, and berries. They won’t turn down an easy meat meal, but they don’t usually stalk and attack live prey for food. Bear scat has been closely inspected for centuries to determine if a bear is nearby. Bear scat reveals exactly what the bear has been eating. As with most large omnivores, bear scat shape and consistency vary according to what he has been eating. Interestingly enough, if a bear has been eating strictly vegetation (no rotting carcasses etc), the poop will not smell as awful as you may expect. Bear berry poop will have an odor of fermenting berries, but not your typical bacteria-laden poop odor.
Normally bear poop is tubular in shape with slightly tapered ends. It is usually 5 – 12” in length and about 1.5” – 2.5” in diameter. A bear scat pile may weigh just over one pound. The consistency and shape of bear dung vary based on the food the bear has consumed. Loose or watery stools indicate the bear has been eating moist or succulent vegetation such as berries. Scat from meat is often watery. Seeds are easy to spot in bear poop, but closer inspection may reveal leaf fragments, insect parts, fish scales, or hair. Bears usually do not even chew berries; depending on the ripeness of the berry they may look much the same coming out as they did going in.
Bears are rapidly losing their habitats and encroaching upon our yards and homes more and more often. Bear scat in your yard is a sure sign that bears are nearby. Other signs of nearby bears are damaged bird feeders, scratch marks on trees or your porch, or trash strewn across your yard. Set up a game camera to record any activity in your yard during the night. Bear activity in a residential neighborhood is dangerous to humans, pets, and the bears themselves. Remember, a bear that gets used to humans and our food has a greater chance of becoming aggressive. As the saying goes, “A fed bear is a dead bear.”
Looking out over your yard and watching deer nibbling on the grass, evokes a simple appreciation for nature. But, in some parts of the country, deer are so plentiful that they are considered a menace, eating vegetable gardens and trampling flowers. Fences are constructed to keep deer away, only to watch the dear soar over the fence. Due to high nitrogen content, accumulations of deer feces in the yard may burn/damage areas of the grass. If you have kids who play in the yard, deer droppings are sure to find their way underfoot. Deer scat should be removed from accessible areas of the yard, but keeping deer out is harder than it would appear!
Deer droppings are best described as bullet-shaped. Deer scat ranges in color from brown to black depending upon what the deer has been eating. Deer pellets have a slight indentation on one end and a point on the other end. On average deer poop 13 times per day and release about 93 pellets each time. These pellets land in a tidy little pile, but they are smaller in size than you would expect from an animal the size of a deer. Whitetail deer pellets are approximately 0.75” in length and mule deer droppings are typically a bit larger measuring 0.875” in length. In the summer when moist grasses, and perhaps your vegetable garden, are available, deer droppings are moist and may be found clumped together. In the winter when deer are forced to survive on twigs and the bark of trees, the droppings will be firm and more separated.
Deer droppings in your yard serve as a warning that your garden, your shrubs, and flowers may be at risk from deer in the area. Deer droppings are an invaluable tool for deer hunters. Due to potential disease and bacteria, deer scat should be safely removed from your yard.
In film and novels, a stereotypically bad day almost always ends with the character being pooped on by a bird. Many people equate bird poop with annoyance, disgust, and just plain bad luck, but some cultures believe that being anointed by a bird brings good luck. Don’t you have that friend that buys a lottery ticket after encountering a bird slurry? For most people though, the white splatter on your suit coat will make anyone cross. Birds indiscriminately release waste as they fly about and perch on statutes or bridges. A large flock of birds can cause excessive amounts of poop in a relatively short period of time. Aside from the negative visual impact and unsanitary nature of bird poo, it can cause damage to cars, roofs, sidewalks, HVAC units, and solar panels. It is time and cash-consuming to continually clean up after birds. To keep an area clear of bird poop, the birds need to be removed and then the environment modified so that they do not return.
Unlike most mammals which have various evacuation routes, birds have one exit for all of their bodily functions. Eggs, fecal matter, and urine all exit from the same hole called the cloaca. Mammals and humans convert ammonia into urea which gets passed as urine. Birds convert ammonia into uric acid which combines with their fecal waste to create the white splatter with dark chunks in it. This is essentially bird poop and pee that are released at the same time. The white part is the bird’s pee, and the brown or green chunky center is the bird’s feces.
Muscovy Duck Poop
Many vitriolic neighbor disputes have begun over Muscovy ducks. Muscovy ducks (Cairina moschata) are native to Central and South America, but they have quite comfortably established themselves in Texas and Florida. In the 1960s these ducks were intentionally introduced to Florida’s parks and lakes to add an exotic aesthetic to the landscape… and this release quickly became out of control. These ducks are often found around Florida’s many aquatic features, such as water retention ponds, golf course water features, suburban and urban lakes, and canals. Muscovy ducks interbreed with and spread disease to native birds. Muscovy duck flocks rapidly expand and may become aggressive if they are used to being fed. They primarily feed on aquatic plants, grasses, seeds, and insects, but human handouts are common.
Generally speaking, those that dislike muscovy ducks do not feel that way because of environmental reasons, it is because of the large amount of poop they produce. Muscovy ducks frequent beautiful waterfront places of respite and reflection for people. Dodging duck turds ruins the experience for most people. Each adult duck can generate ⅓ lb of manure every single day. This fecal matter is deposited on walking paths around bodies of water and often seeps into the water causing the water quality to diminish. Similar to other bird waste, muscovy duck poop is a large white splatter with dark chunks in the middle. Muscovy ducks leave these gifts anywhere they travel, such as sidewalks, walking trails, docks, ponds, and swimming pools.
Because muscovy ducks are not native to Florida, they can be trapped and removed from an area. However, because they threaten native waterfowl, they may not be relocated. Muscovy duck is commercially raised in many parts of the world for food. Many people consider muscovy ducks a delicacy; it is less greasy than other duck species and has a stronger almost roast beef-like flavor.
Pigeon guano is a scourge in densely populated urban areas. Pigeon poop is highly acidic and can cause permanent damage to stone buildings and the metal on vehicles. Visually, you can identify pigeon poop simply based on the large flocks of pigeons in the area. Their poop consists of a white splatter (their urine) and brown or green lumps of undigested food remnants (their fecal matter) in the middle of the splat. Unabated pigeon scat is the subject of multi-million dollar lawsuits for trips and falls, and is at least a contributing factor in a bridge collapse. Large accumulations of pigeon guano can cause roof damage and other structural damage. Pigeons roost, and therefore poop, inside of air conditioning units and solar panels.
Anywhere pigeons call “home” massive amounts of poop are ensured, and pigeons do not leave their “home” willingly. Pigeons are renowned for their homing instinct. This means that if you trap them and release them in the country, they will return to their ledge and dare you to try again. No one is sure exactly how, but pigeons can return to their nest from thousands of miles away. Continually cleaning up pigeon poop is like brushing your teeth while eating cookies… unless you get rid of the birds, you are stuck in a perpetual cycle of a filthy building façade and sidewalk. Luckily, there are many effective options for pigeon abatement. Spikes, ledges, nets, and mild electrical tape can keep pigeons off your property, and in doing so, you alleviate the poop concern.
Beachside businesses consider seagulls and their deposits of poop a major menace. Ask any kid at the beach, seagulls will aggressively snatch a sandwich, french fries, or potato chips. Outdoor venues near the beach such as tiki bars and rooftop bars struggle to keep seagulls from harassing their patrons. Just as quickly as they’ll take a snack, seagulls poop on decks, boats, docks, sidewalks, marinas, and beach goers. Some say this is just the price for doing business in paradise, while others implement seagull deterrent techniques. By taking steps to actively deter seagulls, and other seabirds, from your business, you can greatly lessen the impact of seagull droppings. Wouldn’t you rather be doing anything other than scrubbing bird droppings from decks and railings?
As with everything, there is another side of the coin. Researchers have identified the positive environmental impact seabird poop has on coastal regions. After all, paradise requires lush green landscapes and large flowering hibiscus and bougainvillea plants. Seabird’s bodily functions deposit large amounts of natural fertilizer onto sidewalks, but also onto the swaying palm trees and flowering plants. Some studies suggest that coral reefs are positively affected by seabird droppings as well. The nutrients deposited onto the coral reef may cause the fish to become more numerous and larger. This is especially important in areas that depend upon fisheries and tourism that the coral reefs and fisheries generate.
Balance is required in nature. Protecting seabirds is intrinsically valuable, but redirecting them away from your home or business protects your investment as well. Seagulls and other sea birds can generate a lot of fecal matter, but with a well-developed plan, you can minimize the impact on your home or business.
As coyotes move into urban and suburban neighborhoods, they are the culprit behind disappearing house cats and small dogs. Coyotes are clever canines that have adapted well to the changing American landscape. The word coyote is an old Aztec word, and Native American lore often refers to coyotes as tricksters. Coyotes are omnivores and will eat almost anything, including rabbits, rodents, fish, frogs, carrion, grass, fruits, and sometimes even small pets. Coyote populations are closely linked to the decline of the grey wolf. Wolves are a predator of coyotes; therefore when wolf populations declined, coyote populations increased. The void left by the disappearance of the wolf was filled by the wily coyote.
Coyotes are stealthy, they are more often heard rather than seen. Coyote sightings are not necessarily rare though. Especially in fall and winter, when the trees are bare and food is scarce, keep an eye out for a hunting coyote. Often the first sign of a coyote in the neighborhood is an unidentified pile of scat. As members of the canine family, a coyote’s poop looks similar to the feces of larger breeds of dogs. Coyote scat is tubular in shape with long curled tapered ends. Each dropping may be up to 4” in length and approximately 1” in diameter. The curled ends of each coyote turd are unique and distinguishing characteristics. Coyotes are not picky eaters and as such their poop may take on different hues, from light brown, greenish, to dark brown. Due to food availability, coyote fecal droppings may be darker in the winter with fur and bone fragments in it and lighter in the summer containing seeds and berries.
Coyotes do not restrict their bathroom use to their den; in fact, coyotes may try to exert their dominance using poop. If a coyote has a den on your property, they may mark their presence in your yard by pooping in various areas. This is aimed to inform you that you are invading his space! Coyote scat is often seen along walking trails and paths frequented by humans. If you really want to expand your knowledge, sniff the suspected coyote poop. Dog poop is a familiar smell to most of us, coyote scat has a “musty” odor, noticeably different from dog poop.
Skunks are sometimes referred to in the south as polecats. Technically, polecats are completely different animals from skunks. European polecats are a member of the weasel family, whereas skunks are a member of the Mephitidae family, but most importantly both creatures have the ability to emit a foul-smelling liquid on demand. Polecat has been used as a euphemism for skunk since the late 1600s. Perhaps the vernacular term polecat originated from the French word for stinking, which is pulent. Whether you call them skunks, or polecats, these black and white striped critters have an odiferous yet efficient defense mechanism.
The most odiferous thing about a skunk is most definitely NOT his poop. If your dog or, heaven help us, you have ever been sprayed by a skunk, the last thing you are contemplating is the shape and odor of this creature’s poop. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that skunk droppings do have a foul odor, but it is different from the oil-based glandular defensive spray. Skunk droppings are often found in gardens and lawns. Skunk dung may be easily mistaken for poop from a stray cat. Skunk poop is tubular in shape with blunted ends. It is between 1-2” in length and about ½” in diameter. If you take the time to poke at it, skunk waste will reveal undigested feathers, insects, berries, seeds, and fur.
Skunks are omnivores, and often scavengers of household trash. In addition to raiding trash cans and pet food bowls and containers, skunks eat whatever is seasonally available. Skunk favorites include insect larvae, lizards, rodents, worms, frogs, small birds, snakes, and eggs. While searching for worms or grubs, skunks often dig up flower beds and gardens. Skunk’s predisposition toward scavenging often places them in conflict with humans. Other than skunk scat, there are usually other destructive signs that skunks are nearby, most notably the tell-tale skunk smell, dug-up gardens and lawns, and damage when they enter and remain inside of structures. The holes that skunks dig are typically 3- 4” cone-shaped holes with chunks of overturned lawn or soil. This lawn damage can be expensive and time-consuming to repair. By identifying skunk fecal droppings in your yard, you can capture them and prevent damage to your home and yard.
Unlike bird or bat guano, snake feces rarely accumulates such that it becomes a problem in and of itself. But, identifying random piles of waste found in and around your yard, basement, or attic is important to allay any threat or concern. Snakes eat infrequently, therefore release waste less frequently. How often snakes eat depends upon the size and species of snake. Smaller snakes eat more frequently but consume smaller meals such as mice and small rats. Small snakes may eat 2x per week, whereas larger snakes may eat a rabbit every other week or so. Especially large snakes, such as pythons in the Everglades, have been known to go months or even years between meals. In addition, snakes do not eat in the winter when they enter their quasi-hibernation mode called brumation. Snakes feed more vigorously during mating season, but females stop eating once impregnated. In addition, snakes stop eating just before they shed their skin. The general rule is the larger the snake’s meal, the longer he can go until the next meal.
Snake’s pooping and eating habits go hand in hand. Snakes eat their meals whole, and the digestion process is difficult and requires time and energy. Snakes do not release as waste a portion of the meal and continue to digest the remainder. Instead, a snake will only poop when its entire meal is digested and the remains ready to evacuate as excrement. There will be one snake poop for each meal the snake consumes. The timing of the waste deposit depends upon the size of the meal and the ambient temperature. Naturally, the size of the snake poop depends upon the size of the snake and the size of the prey he consumed.
While it is impossible to describe the likely dimensions of a snake poop, there are some distinguishing characteristics. Like many birds and reptiles, snake bodies have one exit route called the clauca. Feces, urine, and eggs or live young (depending on the snake species), all exit the snake’s body from this one evacuation hole. Therefore, snake waste will be a combination of its urine and feces. Snake excrement consists of brown or black semi-formed logs, this is the fecal matter. Often one end of this log is “capped” with a chalky white substance. This is the urine. Urine may also present as white streaks throughout the brown pile. Snake droppings will be more liquid (less formed) than other species because they eat no fibrous vegetation. If a large snake stool sample is located, you may be able to discern bones, fur, teeth, or nails from the prey.
A thorough examination of snake fecal matter does not tell you the species or the venomous nature of the snake on your premises. Neither does one snake dung pile tell you if the snake is even still in the area. Finding an accumulation of snake poop is exceedingly rare, but may indicate a den of snakes under a deck or a wood pile. The presence of snake poop may give you a warning of high rodent activity in your yard. Like all other creatures, snakes hang out where food and water are plentiful. If you find snake poop in your yard, consider inspecting your home for potential holes where rodents can enter, and begin a preventative rodent bait regimen.
Opossums can cause damage to your yard or garden, but more disturbingly they gain access to your attic space and create havoc. As America’s only marsupials, opossums get a bad rap. Their little beady eyes, sharp teeth, pointed nose, nocturnal lifestyle, and scavenging habits cause many people to intensely dislike the opossum. In recent years their image has seen a restoration of sorts with the idea that opossums are voracious consumers of disease-causing ticks. However, this fact is still up for debate. Scientists have studied the fecal matter and stomach contents of captured opossum and determined that they do NOT show a preference for ticks in their diet. By microscopically and on a DNA level analyzing opossum poop, scientists are beginning to question whether opossums truly are the tick vacuums they were cracked up to be.
While opossum poop is helpful in determining its place in the ecosystem, the beneficial nature of opossum poop is not what comes to mind when you find a stinking pile in the attic. Opossums enter your attic through small openings and using their opposable thumbs may damage your home in order to enlarge the hole. Opossum mothers seek out a warm, dry place to give birth and rear their young, and your attic is a fine location for such activities.
The problem lies in the fact that opossum poop is large and smells awful. Typically, opossum poop looks similar to a medium size dog’s poop. Opossums do not utilize a centralized toilet like raccoons, therefore, they leave piles of excrement all throughout your attic. Opossum poop is generally brown in color, ¾” in diameter, and about 2” long. Usually, there are 2 or 3 logs of fecal matter per pile. Opossum poop tends to have a twisty or curvy shape to it because the opossum bends while excreting the waste. Have you ever stepped in dog poop and had a smear of poop on your shoe? If so, then you know how that small amount of fecal matter can stink up the entire room! Opossum poop smells similar to dog poop… only imagine the stench when excessive piles accumulate in the attic. To that, add the very real possibility of opossum death in the attic. It is not uncommon for a baby opossum to fall into a wall void and perish. The opossum odor is overwhelming. If you have an opossum in your yard, inspect your home to ensure there are no potential entrance holes for them. Seal your home completely to prevent opossum and other critters from entering your attic space and defecating and urinating throughout.
Armadillo, meaning “little armored one” in Spanish, is another nuisance animal that can haunt homeowners. Armadillos are nocturnal, and thus are often only seen as roadkill, but if they deem your yard prime hunting grounds, they can cause vast amounts of damage to your lawn and landscaping. Armadillos are diggers. They have powerful legs with strong claws. They live in underground burrows and therefore are not often found in attics like other nuisance wildlife.
Armadillos eat earthworms, beetle larvae (grubs), and other insects. To do this they scratch and sniff around the surface of the ground until they find a meal. They quickly dig a hole and extract their meal and move on, damaging and digging throughout the night. As they root around your home and yard, armadillo, like all animals, drop fecal matter. Armadillo poop is smaller than the poop of most other backyard visitors. It is more pellet than log shaped and about an inch long. Upon closer inspection, you may find insect parts, soil, and twig pieces in the poop. Armadillo scat will most likely be found near the entrance to their burrows, or in flower beds or gardens in which armadillos scavenge.
Armadillos are known to harbor the bacteria that cause leprosy. Although leprosy is extremely rare today in humans, armadillos and their feces are a risk factor. The exact mechanism of transmission of leprosy from armadillos to humans is unknown, but close contact with armadillos and their fecal matter may play a part. If armadillos are burrowing in your yard and digging up your lawn, an experienced wildlife trapper can remove them. Homeowners invest large amounts of money in landscaping, and armadillos should not be permitted to negate that investment.
Lizards, geckos, salamanders, and skinks are reptiles that may leave droppings on your pool patio or porch. Often lizards are brought inside in little boy’s hands or pockets, or lizards may simply slip in on their own. At first glance, lizard poop looks suspiciously like rat or mouse droppings. Proper fecal identification is important as rodent droppings require immediate action, whereas an incidental lizard intrusion is of much less concern.
Lizard poop consists of two distinct parts, a dark brown or black to greenish dropping with a distinctly white cap on the end. Similar to birds and snakes, lizards excrete both urine and fecal matter together through a single opening. The brownish dropping part of the excrement is the fecal matter, and the white cap is the urine. Rodents such as mice and rats have separate systems for fecal matter and urine, therefore their fecal droppings will not have the white cap. Most lizard poop is quite small, less than an inch in length, but it can vary based upon the species and size of the lizard.
Frog and Toad Poop
Frog poop varies from species to species, but generally speaking, frog poop is large compared to the size of the frog. A dropping that may look like it came from a large rat or skunk, may actually be from a small to medium size frog. Frogs eat large quantities of food when it is available, have large stomachs, and for their size, some species can consume relatively large prey. For these reasons, their logs of poop are larger than you would expect.
Finding a giant turd on your porch or patio does not necessarily mean that a large mammal squatted on your property. Large frogs such as Pacman frogs excrete exceptionally large droppings. Frog droppings have a cylindrical shape and no white cap such as seen on lizards and snakes. Frog scat has a shiny appearance when it is fresh. When it dries it loses its sheen and decreases in size a bit. The frog log is solid, meaning it does not have many indentations along the log. Frog and toad bowel movements may be a quarter of their body length. Just imagine if that translated to a 6-foot-tall human!
Frog urine is associated with lore and the legend of witches and warts. Frogs are known to release large puddles of urine when they are surprised or feel threatened, such as when they are picked up or improperly handled. Although frog urine does not cause warts, frog urine may spread disease if it enters your body through a scratch on your hands, or if you wipe your eyes, mouth, or nose with a frog-soaked hand. Always wash your hands after handling a frog.
Bufo Toad or the Cane Toad Poop
Of particular concern in Florida is the deadly bufo toad (Rhinella Marina), also commonly called the cane toad. Bufo is Latin for toad, and the previous scientific name for this invasive species, so the term bufo toad is a bit redundant. At any rate, bufo toads are poisonous to most animals that bite them or attempt to consume them. Cane toads release a milky-white toxin from a gland behind their eyes called bufotoxin. This poison can cause death to domesticated pets. If you believe your pet has bitten a cane toad, seek veterinary care immediately.
Cane toads are commonly found near bodies of water, such as canals, ponds, streams, and standing water. They are concentrated in areas of south Florida as they were originally released to act as a biopesticide for the sugar farms. Cane toads have a massive appetite, which leads to cane toads growing much larger than frogs and toads native to south Florida. While bufo toads average about 6” in length, they have been observed to be as large as 9.5” in length. Native Florida frog and toad species max out at around 4” in length. Naturally, as cane toads are exceptionally large amphibians, their poop is rather large as well. Their poop looks similar to other species of frog and toad poop, but larger, much larger. Many people suspect a cat is sneaking onto the lanai and pooping, only to find the scat was left by a bufo toad. Finding cane toad poop on your pool deck or porch may alert you to potential danger in your yard. If you determine that you have bufo toads lurking around your yard, they may be trapped and humanely euthanized. Cane toads can be deadly for your pet, but luckily investigating the poop they leave behind may give you a warning.
Iguanas have grown quite comfortable in the lush tropical vegetation of south Florida. Iguanas are mostly vegetarian eating bright tropical flowers, fruits, and other vegetation. As their populations’ increase, the problems associated with iguana poop increase. Iguanas thrive in beachfront resorts with access to water, food, and shelter. Iguanas now are a common nuisance in neighborhoods with access to the Intracoastal waterway and along docks and marinas. Iguanas seem to have a special affinity for pools and their fecal matter is often found in and around pools where south Florida families gather year-round.
Often iguana fecal droppings in your yard or pool may be the first indication of iguanas nearby. Many people keep iguanas and other lizards as pets, but the prevalence of non-native iguanas in the environment has prompted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to encourage people to work to eradicate iguanas from their homes and businesses. Iguanas devouring expensive and beautiful landscaping and creating huge piles of poop are the two main reasons homeowners battle to rid their yards of exotic-looking iguanas.
Like other reptiles, iguanas poop and urinate through the same hole, often at the same time. Therefore, iguana waste consists of brown or greenish-colored feces, a gooey liquid part that is mostly water, and uric acid which dries to a chalky white on pool decks, porches, decks, and sidewalks. The size and shape of iguana poop depend upon how large the iguana is. Baby iguana poop is small and pellet-shaped like a rabbit. They release multiple pellets per bowel movement. As the iguana grows, so does his poop. An adult iguana will release longer fecal masses that are twisted like a DNA helix. The fecal droppings of a large adult male iguana will be about the size of a medium size dog.
Iguana poop is particularly aggravating because it so often coincides with our recreational habits. The Florida lifestyle is very much centered around aquatic activities, much like the lifestyle of iguanas. Luxury resorts, high-end golf clubs, the yachting and boating community, and people who live near the extensive canal system in south Florida all battle iguanas and their damaging habits and massive amounts of poop.
Risks Associated with Animal Poop
When you find mysterious piles of excrement in and around your home, the gross factor immediately kicks in. For good reason too! Fecal matter, of all species, is associated with the spread of disease, fly and other insect infestations, unpleasant odors, and unsightly aesthetics. Unsanitary practices surrounding the treatment of both human and animal poop have contributed to countless deaths. In contrast, poop in the form of animal manure has benefited humans tremendously by increasing crop yields and improving the quality of the soil. Pigeons were once so valued for their droppings that armed guards were kept outside of the dovecotes where pigeons were housed. The prairie land of the Great Plains would not be what it was without vast numbers of bison depositing nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, sulfur, and magnesium into the ecosystem.
However, large accumulations of fecal matter in close proximity to humans lead to disease outbreaks and potentially death. Water sources can be contaminated and with improper sanitation fecal particles in food can lead to devastating consequences. Human exposure to animal feces is more common in the developing world. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), “domestic animals such as poultry, cattle, sheep, and pigs generate 85% of the world’s animal fecal waste.” If you encounter unexpected droppings in your yard or home, do not touch them with bare hands.
There are more than 40 diseases spread by ingesting or handling items contaminated with animal feces. In addition to bacteria, unabated poop piles contribute to parasites in the soil. Although relatively rare, many of these diseases can be quite serious, especially for the elderly and immunocompromised. Large accumulations of poop can be safely cleaned, but personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used.
Nature’s insistence on decay and decomposition is evident in piles of turds as well. Flies play an integral part in breaking down matter and they are drawn to freshly laid fecal matter. Filth breeding flies smell poop and immediately head towards the steaming mound to lay eggs. Flies will find poop within minutes of its deposit. The larvae, also known as maggots, emerge from the eggs and begin consuming the filth. High manure locations such as horse barns, dairy farms, and poultry raising operations struggle to contain flies for this reason. Should you find an attic full of animal droppings, flies and roaches are sure to be present as well.
It goes without saying that poop is closely associated with foul odors. An occasional dropping on your pool patio is unlikely to be a serious odor nuisance, but accumulations of nuisance wildlife in your attic or under a deck can seriously impair the air quality in your home. The most common visual frustration related to feces is pigeon poop. Pigeons do not urinate; all of their waste is excreted in the form of poop. It is therefore high in uric acid and highly acidic and damaging. Pigeon droppings littering city sidewalks, historical buildings, and community parks become an eye sore and a community health concern.
How to Clean Up Animal Poop
Whether it be backyard droppings or piles of scat in the attic, accumulations of poop should be cleaned. If your attic has been used as a nesting location for raccoons, rats, squirrels, or opossums, chances are there are massive amounts of fecal matter. After the nuisance wildlife has been removed and the entry/exit holes properly sealed, the job is not complete. Depending on the critter, there may be damage to electrical wiring, attic insulation, the HVAC system including the duct work, and a myriad of other issues. Allowing fecal matter to remain in your attic, contaminates the air quality throughout your home, and contributes to other pest problems.
The CDC recommends taking precautions when cleaning fecal matter from inside your home. For this task, wear protective equipment. The CDC recommends using the following PPE:
Appropriate respiratory protection device, such as a respirator
Removing Animal Poop from Inside Your Home
As fecal matter ages, it often becomes dusty. When this dust is disturbed, you risk breathing it in and introducing the bacteria and fungal spores into your body. Do not begin by sweeping or vacuuming up feces, urine, or nesting material as this stirs up these dust particles. Instead, begin by spraying the area with bleach water or other commercial disinfectants. The moisture will contain the dust, and the disinfectant nature of the solution will neutralize the risk of bacteria and viruses.
After allowing the disinfectant to soak into the affected area for 5 minutes, remove the fecal droppings. Depending on your situation, this may require a shovel or trowel and multiple 5-gallon buckets. Or, if you’re lucky, it may be as simple as scooping the droppings into a ziplock bag and tossing it into the trash. Either way, completely remove the fecal matter from the entire area. Thoroughly inspect all areas of the attic, or if in the main living area of the home, adjacent cabinets and closets. Disinfect anything in the immediate area that may have been contaminated by your uninvited guests.
Cleaning poop from an attic often coincides with hunting down and removing a dead decaying animal. Repressing horrific odors is a genuine motivator to clean and deodorize your attic. After removal of the carcass, and cleaning the area with disinfectant, the odor may linger. Specialized enzymatic cleaners may help alleviate this odor. These products contain live active enzymes that don’t simply cover up odor. The microbes in these products actually consume the bacteria that cause the odor. These products are especially useful to spray in areas that you suspect may be contaminated but you see no actual proof. For example, you may not see month-old rat urine on the rafters or insulation in the attic, but your nose tells a different story. These enzymatic cleaners may help remove bacteria from places that you either didn’t know to clean or areas that you cannot access to clean.
Cleaning Outdoor Wildlife Poop
The above guidelines are for removing and cleaning animal feces from inside your home. Outdoor poop removal is sometimes necessary as well. If you have children or pets that play in your yard, you’ll want to take extra precautions to avoid them stomping in wildlife feces and smearing it into your newly cleaned wood floors. Some of the nuisance wildlife that roams through our yards, can leave quite large piles of poop. Depending on the severity of the situation, you may consider removing the poop. Often, the easiest way to remove a poop pile is to either bury it, or shovel it into a plastic bag, seal the bag, and toss it in the trash.
Bird and reptile droppings may require a bit more elbow grease before the area is clean. Many birds and reptiles urinate and defecate from one opening called the clauca. The urine part of their waste is often characterized by a chalky white appearance when it dries. This chalky substance can be difficult to remove. Pigeon excrement, in particular, is extremely acidic and damaging to various surfaces. A strong scrubbing brush, hot soapy water, and a bit of effort are usually required to thoroughly clean a pigeon nesting area. Have a scraping tool readily available as sometimes even a scrubbing brush doesn’t thoroughly return the building to its original shine.
Using Poop as Fertilizer
Some people may prefer to try to use outdoor wildlife as fertilizer. Although historically, poop has been used as fertilizer since the beginning of time, there are inherent risks in doing so. A host of bacteria, parasites, and fungal spores are naturally occurring in fecal matter. To combat these risks, prior to placing guano or animal poop in your garden, especially a vegetable garden, it should be heat composted. Proper composting of waste materials is much more than piling the manure in the corner of the yard and letting it sit for six months. Composting with manure requires the correct ratio of nitrogen (obtained from poop) to carbon (obtained from wood shavings, animal bedding, or hay/straw). The perfect balance of ingredients, aeration, moisture, and temperature is necessary to safely compost manure. In order to kill pathogens, weed seeds, and parasites, the temperature of your dung pile needs to reach and stay at or above 131 ° Fahrenheit for 15 days. Clearly, composting random raccoon droppings is not worth the effort, but large-scale animal operations may “dispose” of their animal waste in this way.
Cleaning poop is probably the last thing you want to be doing on your day off. If ever there was a quintessential “dirty job,” this is it. Luckily, nuisance wildlife trappers, who are experienced in locating and trapping the critters, are also experienced in cleaning up after them. It takes all kinds of people for the world to turn, and fortunately, here at Nextgen Pest Solutions, we have found and hired the best of the best in wildlife trapping and cleanup. If scooping bat guano is not your idea of a weekend, or you simply found unidentified piles of poo in your home or yard, give us a call today. Our experts are happy to help.