Identifying Wildlife Feces
Wildlife droppings or feces can reveal a lot about which animals have infested attics, crawlspaces, and gardens. Our expert guide to identifying animal droppings (also known as scats) explains how to tell which animal species they came from and what information they contain about the animal’s health.
Droppings are typically found along territorial boundaries, prominent landscape features, or next to discarded prey such as a plucked pigeon, but they can also be found in the garage, attic, or basements. Keeping an eye out for nuisance animal dropping can alert homeowners to a problem before it gets out of hand.
Where Are Droppings Most Commonly Found?
When you’re at home, in your garden or attic, you might come across animal feces. Please take note of the size, shape, and color to help you identify it, and then tear it apart with a stick to see what’s inside. But don’t touch it because it could be contaminated with harmful bacteria. Common locations of wildlife scat include:
- On Insulation
- Garage Attics
- Behind Furniture
- Near Wildlife Entry Points
- Inside Pantries (Near Food Source)
Identification Of Nuisance Animal Feces
Animals enter our homes for a variety of reasons. Maybe it’s cold outside, and the attic is warm. Perhaps all they’re looking for is food and shelter, which your home provides. They’ll gain confidence and venture further into the house.
Because many of these species reproduce quickly, getting them out should be a top priority. One critter can quickly grow into a large colony, causing even more havoc. Follow along below to learn more about which species of animal has left droppings in your home.
Armadillos are efficient diggers and insect hunters thanks to their tough, armored bodies and strong claws. They spend most of their time searching for food and eating, which means they produce a lot of poop. Feces are frequently strewn near backyard burrowing sites or damp-soil ditches. Keep an eye out for small groups of inch-long brown pellets when identifying armadillo scat. Armadillo droppings cause problems for homeowners in their yards because they are unpleasant to smell and challenging to clean up.
Because bat feces are dropped from a roosting point on the ceiling, they will accumulate in piles on the attic or roof space floor where the bats are present. The droppings are typically black in color and are long, thin pellets when found individually, but it is the fact that they accumulate in piles that make bat feces stand out.
Because bats eat insects, you’ll notice that their droppings have a gleaming and speckled appearance up close, which is caused by the insects’ wings not being fully broken down in the digestive system.
The pasty texture and white color of bird droppings help to identify them. They can be found on cars, statues, windows, and anywhere beneath nests and perches.
Bird droppings are not only unsightly, but they can also be harmful. Histoplasmosis and cryptococcosis are among the diseases and parasites spread by droppings. Histoplasmosis is a fungus that causes flu-like symptoms and affects the respiratory system. Cryptococcosis can manifest as a lung infection that extends to the nervous system or as skin rash with lesions and ulcers.
Beaver droppings are often found on the edge of water sources. If the feces is left above water levels, it will dry out fairly quickly. If the scat is dry and breaks apart easily, it’s likely a beaver’s droppings. Beaver feces has a texture and appearance similar to sawdust.
If your lawn or property has a mole problem, the mounds and tunnels they create in yards while burrowing underground will usually be the first sign. Because moles spend the majority of their lives underground, mole droppings in yards are extremely rare.
If they’re found, they’ll resemble small brown pellets. The best place to search for mole feces is near long stretches of dead grass known as surface runways, resulting from moles’ tunneling behavior.
Mice & Rat Feces
When rats or mice enter a home or business, they rarely bring anything beneficial with them. Most of the time, however, you won’t be able to see them. Rats can grow to be quite large, but they are very good at avoiding detection. As a result, recognizing the telltale signs of an invading rat or group of rats is critical. The most apparent sign of a rodent problem is their feces.
Rat droppings are typically black, and the darker they are, the fresher they are. This can help you determine whether you have an old infestation or one that is currently active. Rat droppings that have been around for a while will turn gray and dry out. The size of rat droppings varies depending on the species of rat that left them and how old the rat was. If you find several droppings in a single location, which is likely, you’ll be able to rule out immature rat droppings and get down to business figuring out if you have rats at all.
Mice feces are typically small, measuring about a quarter inch in length. The color of the droppings will indicate whether they are fresh or not. Older droppings will appear chalky and dry, while newer droppings will be darker and shinier.
The feces that opossums leave behind can often be used to identify them. A typical opossum dropping is about 3/4 of an inch in diameter. It ranges from 1 to 2 inches in length and tapers off at its ends.
They are long, smooth on the sides, and may have white or yellowish mold growth on them. The color of fresh opossum droppings is brown. Opossum feces has a unique characteristic in that it curls as the animal excretes the waste.
Raccoon droppings are tubular in shape, blunted at the ends, and dark in color, though the color changes based on what the animal has recently consumed.
Raccoons create separate latrine sites when they den in residential areas, and coming across one indicates a nearby infestation. They frequently return to the same spots, which include roofs, attics, woodpiles, haylofts, and on or under decks. If raccoons have infested your attic or garage, one specific area will have a strong odor due to the raccoons relieving themselves in the same spot.
Squirrel droppings have rounded edges and are cylindrical in shape. They’re usually about 3/8 of an inch long with an 8 mm diameter. Squirrel waste has a distinct odor that makes it easy to distinguish from that of other animals. It also gets lighter with age, turning red or brown, which is not true for other animals.
Squirrel feces is usually distributed randomly, but you may notice some clusters near the attic areas where they ate or found an entry point.
Skunk droppings resemble those of raccoons. Both animals have established homes in human environments. Raccoons are more common than other animals because they’ve adapted to coexisting with humans. If you notice scat that does not resemble your dog’s poop, you should investigate further to determine whether you have a skunk or a raccoon on your hands.
Skunk poop frequently contains evidence of their diet. Exoskeletons, berries, seeds, fur, and feathers may be found inside the droppings. The scat is tubular, and one end may be blunt. Skunk droppings range from 2.5 to 5 centimeters in length, while raccoon droppings range from 5 to 7.5 centimeters in length.
The Harmful Aspects Of Wild Animal Droppings
The origin of nearly two-thirds of human pathogens and three-quarters of emerging pathogens is zoonotic (animal origin). While research has focused on the zoonotic transmission of respiratory and vector-borne pathogens like Ebola and West Nile Virus, pathogens found in animal feces that are transmitted via water, sanitation, and hygiene-related pathways have received less attention. 1Go To Source ncbi.nlm.nih.gov -“Exposure to Animal Feces and Human Health: A Systematic Review and Proposed Research Priorities”
Diseases can be spread from wild animal feces to people and domestic animals in two ways: through the consumption of feces-contaminated food/water or by inhaling spores released by the waste.
The diseases transmitted by inhaling the spores are pretty severe and include Histoplasmosis, Hantavirus, and Leptospirosis, both of which can start out as flu symptoms but quickly escalate. Salmonella, e.coli, and roundworm are just a few of the diseases that can be spread by consuming contaminated food and drink.
Humans and animals are both affected by leptospirosis, a bacterial disease. The bacteria stems from the Leptospira genus, often found in mammals such as raccoons, opossums, and skunks. It can cause a wide range of symptoms in humans, some of which may be misdiagnosed as other illnesses. Some infected people, on the other hand, may show no signs or symptoms at all.
Leptospirosis can cause kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane surrounding the spinal cord and brain), respiratory distress, liver failure, and even death if left untreated. 2Go To Source cdc.gov -“Leptospirosis”
Histoplasmosis is a disease caused by the Histoplasma fungus (or mold). In the eastern and central United States, the Histoplasma fungus is common. It thrives in soil and other materials that have been contaminated by bat or bird droppings. By inhaling the fungal spores, you become infected. You cannot contract the infection from another person.
Histoplasmosis is frequently asymptomatic. If you do become ill, it is most likely to affect your lungs. Feeling sick, fever, chest pains, and a dry cough are all symptoms. Histoplasmosis can spread to other organs in severe cases. Infants, young children, older adults, and people with immune system problems are more likely to get it. 3Go To Source medlineplus.gov -“Histoplasmosis”
Salmonellosis is a foodborne illness caused by Salmonella bacteria. Salmonella bacteria have been known to make people sick since 1885, when they were named after Daniel E. Salmon, a veterinarian who studied animal diseases for the United States Department of Agriculture.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 1.35 million cases of salmonellosis in the United States each year, with 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths. The majority of these cases are caused by contaminated food. Rodent droppings inside food storage areas is a common way salmonella is consumed. Salmonellosis is the second most common foodborne illness in the United States. 4Go To Source fda.gov -“Salmonella”
Why Hire Wildlife Decontamination Experts?
Wildlife cleanup is the process of removing animal urine, feces, and the odors that come with it from your home or business. Cleaning and disinfecting wildlife urine and feces is a time-consuming process that entails much more than simply vacuuming up the droppings. If done incorrectly, it can result in additional losses due to animal reentry and health risks if left unattended.
Wildlife control technicians understand the importance of getting the job done right the first time. They work with wildlife daily and understand how animals can cause damage, how they can gain access to your home, their nesting habits, and biology. Experience provided by these experts allows them to complete a job thoroughly, leaving no loose ends or potential problems.
Who To Call For Wildlife Feces Cleanup?
The presence of wild animals in your home, particularly when there is an infestation, can be an unfortunate and unsettling situation. However, the sooner you identify the nuisance, the easier it will be to evict them and dispose of their hazardous waste.
While we’ve only gone over a few common animals, many of these guidelines and tips can be used in various situations. Don’t ignore animal waste the next time you see it. Contact a wildlife control and decontamination company to prevent the spread of disease through animal feces. If you’re in need of wildlife feces cleanup, call us at 833-633-1120 to connect with a wildlife droppings expert near you.
- Penakalapati, Gauthami. “Exposure to Animal Feces and Human Health: A Systematic Review and Proposed Research Priorities.” PubMed Central (PMC), 17 Oct. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5647569.
- CDC. “Leptospirosis | CDC.” Center For Diseases Control And Prevention, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 13 Mar. 2019, www.cdc.gov/leptospirosis/index.html.
- “Histoplasmosis.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library Of Medicine, medlineplus.gov/histoplasmosis.html. Accessed 14 July 2021.
- FDA. “Get the Facts about Salmonella.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Food And Drug Administration, 28 July 2020, www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/get-facts-about-salmonella#statistics.