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Scat Revelations

12-14-15 coyote scat 021Predators and scavengers of all stripes are reaping the benefits of deer hunting season. A close look at the composition and form of the pictured scat reveals much more than the fact that a coyote dined on a white-tailed deer. Note that the scat consists almost entirely of deer hair. When a predator such as a coyote comes upon a carcass, it tends to eat the internal organs first, which produce black, moist, soft scats with next to no bones or hair in them. As it continues to feed, the coyote’s scats contain more and more bones and hair, until eventually that is all they consist of.

There are two conclusions one could make when analyzing this scat. One is that the coyote whose scat this is was finishing up the tail end of a deer carcass. It is also possible that this coyote might not have been at the top of its pack’s hierarchy. The alpha pair usually has first dibs on the internal organs, with lower members of the pack having access to the less choice parts, such as hair and bones.

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4 responses

  1. Evergreen Erb

    I thought that coyotes were more solitary, rather than being in packs. But I also read recently, that they are finding more coyotes that are in packs than before. Of course, our coyotes here in VT have wolf DNA, so that could account for that. It certainly sounds like a whole pack howling and yipping on the ridge near us at night!

    December 14, 2015 at 9:04 am

  2. Kathie Fiveash

    Is there any nutrition at all in hair? I am imagining that the coyote eats the skin and gets some hair in the process which is concentrated in the scat.

    December 14, 2015 at 9:08 am

  3. Sonya

    So…how would I know that this is coyote, and not…say…fisher. It looks twisted w/ tapered ends. I have such a hard time with this! No porcupine quills? Thank you for all I have learned from you!

    December 14, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    • You’re on the right track, but you don’t have the advantage of scale…the diameter is much too large for fisher, plus usually, but not always, fisher scat is, like you say, twisted, but it is also most often a very dark color (unless it’s been eating apples!). If you have access to a copy of my book, Naturally Curious, look on page 383. There are pictures of both coyote and fisher scat.

      December 14, 2015 at 4:59 pm

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