Backyard Animal Poop Identification: A Complete Guide to 2023

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Have you ever found droppings in your yard and wondered what type of animal is in your area? What exactly is the animal that's been roaming around your property and should you be worried? There are many reasons to learn how to identify wildlife droppings. However, whatever your reasons, this complete guide will walk you through identifying some of the most common types of litter in your yard!

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The Importance of Recognizing Wildlife Poop in Your Yard

Complete Guide to Backyard Animal Waste Identification 2023-1
Wild animals and their excrement are carriers of various diseases.

©iStock.com/King Ropes Access

In addition to alleviating curiosity about life in the yard, learning how to recognize wildlife droppings is important in many ways. This is because certain animals can pose health risks to you and your pets through direct contact or through their excrement.

Wild animals and their excrement are carriers of various diseases. From viruses to parasites, there are many different diseases that can be transmitted to you from these wild animals. Learning to recognize what's in your yard can help you understand what diseases may be in your area. You can also learn how to safely dispose of waste and keep animals from returning to your yard. These things are discussed further below.

Identifying the Types of Wildlife Poop

Just as wild animals themselves can be dangerous and carry potentially harmful diseases and parasites, their excrement is no exception.

Below, you'll find a complete guide to help you identify some of the most common backyard guest poops.

coyote poop

Coyotes are an important part of the ecosystem and it is important to protect this interesting native species. However, for your health, it's important to know if you have these canine visitors in your area. Not only can their droppings spread parasites that pose a major health threat, but the animals behind their droppings can also be a threat to chickens and small pets.

Coyote poo is usually large and tube-shaped, resembling a knotted rope made of many different parts. The most notable feature is the tapered curled end. If you're able to watch safely, you may notice signs of their recent feeding, such as fur, bones, or even the remains of berries and grass. In most cases, you can also see parasites.

At first glance, it can be difficult to tell the difference between dog poop and coyote poop. However, dog feces usually do not contain animal remains. Parasites are also not common. However, if you can't see the actual contents of the junk itself, you can look at its overall appearance. Dog poop is soft and makes a mess when stepped on, while coyote poop is firmer, and in some cases even hard. It's also bigger, and the curled ends set it apart.

squirrel poo

Wondering exactly what type of animal decided to take up residence in your attic? Wondering who is visiting your bird feeder? Identifying squirrel droppings is the basis of wildlife droppings. This is because squirrels can be found all over the world with the exception of Australia and Antarctica, making them one of the most common species around.

Since they are rodents, squirrel excrement is similar to that of rats and mice. This can make it difficult to distinguish poop. However, there are a few clues to be aware of.

Squirrel droppings come in a variety of colors, from dark brown to tan to reddish. It comes in the form of small granules with rounded ends. These rounded heads plus their roughly ⅜ inch size make it easy to distinguish them from rat droppings. (You'll learn how to identify rat droppings later on this list!)

Squirrels are intelligent animals and love to build "bathrooms". That means they usually use the restroom in the same place, allowing all the particles to build up.

Like all rodent droppings, squirrel droppings can carry diseases and parasites that can be a health hazard.

chipmunk poop

Chipmunk droppings are also similar to mouse and squirrel droppings. Like squirrels, chipmunks are selective about where they use the restroom. This is because they are prey and their excrement will bring predators to their home. By creating a special restroom area, they can better mask their smell and where they are, helping to keep them safe.

However, this can make it difficult to tell if there are chipmunks near you, especially if you're not sure what you're looking for!

Among the Goldilocks of rodent poop, chipmunk poop falls right in the middle. Chipmunk poop is similar in appearance to rice and is larger but smaller than mouse poop. It can also range in color from brown to black, whereas rat droppings are only black, which is much lighter in color.

Chipmunk droppings can carry many different types of viruses. Many of them are dangerous to humans. Therefore, special guidelines have been developed to help ensure that you can safely remove any waste from your home. For example, you should wait a week before picking it up to allow the virus to become inactive.

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raccoon poo

Besides rats, raccoons are probably one of the most common visitors to urban and suburban environments. While they are most commonly found in forests, prairies, and grasslands, they can also be found in your outdoor items and trash. They're not picky eaters at all, so lots of different things can attract them to your home.

How do you know if you've been visited by one of these adorable alien cat creatures? Of course looking for their waste!

As with all wild animals, it is important to avoid interacting with raccoons if you happen to spot them in your yard. While they can be very cute, they can also be very dangerous, spreading diseases and viruses to humans. They may bite or scratch, too! So if you find raccoons in your yard, be sure to take the proper precautions to keep them away. This includes protecting litter and pet food.

Believe it or not, raccoon poop looks very similar to dog poop. They both have tubes of droppings that are usually several inches long. One of the best ways to identify raccoon droppings is to look for any food that may have passed through its digestive system. This usually includes seeds or undigested grasses and berries.

Raccoons create what are called community toilets. This means that different raccoons living in the same area will all frequent the same "restroom". Large amounts of waste accumulating in one area, combined with the distinctive, strong smell of their droppings, can make it easy to find this spot around your property.

groundhog poop

One of the largest rodents, the marmot, also known as the marmot, is one of the cleanest animals when it comes to litter. In fact, groundhogs have probably been living near your home for a long time before you know it. While you may find signs of their residence elsewhere, you will rarely find groundhog droppings.

This is because groundhogs build underground toilets. While other types of rodents have special areas for using the restroom, few other species create their own hidden bathrooms!

If you happen to come across groundhog droppings, you can identify it by its shape and size. Their droppings are small dark brown ovals.

rat droppings

After learning more about squirrel and chipmunk droppings, you may have some idea of what to expect from mouse droppings. However, while the excrement of all rodents is similar in many ways, you will also find some differences between them.

Unlike other types of rodents, mice are not all that hygienic when in their bathroom habitat. While squirrels and groundhogs have designated areas to use the bathroom, the same is not true for mice. Rats will use the bathroom when needed, even while walking! This can lead to the dispersal of particles in your home or wherever rats live.

When identifying rat droppings, you'll notice they're small, dark, and cylindrical. When you first see them, you might think they are raisins or even coffee beans. However, their droppings are much thinner than either.

rat droppings

While it may appear that mouse poop is the exact same thing as rat poop, you'll be surprised to know they're actually quite different! The most notable difference is size. Mouse droppings can be so small that you might miss them entirely or mistake them for dust. They are brown and about the size of a grain of rice.

While you may find rat droppings around the house, you may notice other signs of the critter before you find their droppings. This includes bits of cotton and fabric in their nests, biting or scratching on furniture.

cockroach droppings

Have you ever wondered how insects can "go to the toilet" in your home? Still, it may be a disturbing truth, but it's a real truth. For example, cockroaches can leave litter all over your house.

When it comes to cockroach droppings, it can be easily mistaken for mouse droppings. In fact, since cockroach droppings are so small and black that they resemble grains of rice, it's almost impossible to tell them apart. The best way to tell the difference between these two kinds of droppings is to consider where they are found.

Cockroaches are able to enter areas that mice cannot, such as under appliances. This is thanks to their small, flat bodies. So if you find suspicious droppings in a tight crevice, it's more likely to be cockroaches than rats.

turkey droppings

Whether it's for hunting purposes or just out of curiosity, you may wonder if you have turkeys visiting your yard. While you can stake them out early in the morning, an easier way to find out is to search for turkey droppings.

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Surprisingly, turkey droppings are different from most bird droppings you'll see on a bench, table, or card. In fact, at first glance, you might even mistake turkey droppings for mammal droppings!

One of the most important things about turkey droppings is that males and females actually pass different sized droppings. This is because their anatomy can change the shape of the excrement. Male poop is J-shaped, while female poop is coil-shaped. Like other birds, they contain uric acid in their excrement. This can cause it to appear white in some areas.

bat droppings

Bat droppings actually have a very specific name: guano. Bat guano is different from most of the poop you've seen so far, which is one reason it has a different name. First, because they mostly eat fruits and vegetables, they don't have much undigested material in their excrement. However, sometimes you can find the seeds, or the remains of insects they ate.

As for size and shape, bat droppings are small and round. It is also very crumbly and turns to a dusty texture when touched. However, like most types of wildlife droppings, bat droppings pose serious health risks to humans. Therefore, you should make sure you never touch it, especially without proper personal protection.

Interestingly, in some parts of the world, chemicals in bat droppings can actually turn animals orange!

bear shit

No one wants to step out of the house one day and bump the nose of a bear. This is especially true for those with small pets who are out using the bathroom in the early hours, which can lead to dangerous break-ins. Therefore, learning to recognize bear poop is important for your safety and the health of your pets.

Bear poop actually changes appearance depending on the season. In the spring, bears have been known to eat grass and insects that give their droppings a green color. In summer and fall, you'll find more berries and fruit. Not only does their litter change seasonally, but daily. It all depends on what these opportunistic eaters have been on their menus lately!

There are also several different species of bears. This can cause their litter to vary in appearance, such as content, color and size. Most bear droppings are tubes filled with digested food scraps. Grizzly bears have larger droppings than smaller black bears, although they are otherwise nearly identical.

mountain lion poop

When it comes to cougar poop, you'll be looking for something completely different than what you'd find in your kitten's litter box.

First off, a cougar is much bigger than your cat. As a result, their droppings are also much larger, sometimes nearly 10 inches long! They do have similar stringy droppings, although they can also pass in one piece.

As with other types of animals, you can also find signs of a cougar's recent meal. This can include indigestible debris such as bones and hair.

deer shit

When you think of deer dung, you probably think of something similar to horse dung. However, deer poop is actually more similar to rabbit poop.

Deer droppings are very small, especially considering their size. Since they are herbaceous, eating grass, leaves and bark throughout the day, their excrement reflects this. Deer, like cattle, are ruminants. This means that their food has been thoroughly digested, so you will most likely not see any food residue in their small 2cm round pellets.

guano

You are probably very familiar with bird droppings. However, healthy bird droppings, known as droppings, aren't always the white splatter you'll find on outdoor furniture and cars. Instead, as many bird owners have surely noticed, a bird's diet plays a big role in the appearance of its droppings.

Healthy bird droppings can come in a variety of colors. Usually, guano has the texture of toothpaste, although this can vary in the wild depending on health.

skunk poop

Unlike cougar poop, skunk poop is actually very similar to the litter you'd find in a cat's litter box. They have small tubes of waste about 1 to 2 inches long that unravel when stimulated. However, aside from size, skunk droppings have little consistency. That's because, like bears, they can eat a variety of foods, some of which can drastically change the appearance of their excrement.

One of the best ways to identify skunk droppings is to look for mounds, usually near where you suspect they live. Unfortunately, they don't have formal bathrooms like groundhogs or squirrels.

snake poop

Of all the animal droppings discussed on this list, snake droppings are probably the funniest. After all, few of us think about a snake's bathroom habitat. So, what exactly does snake poop look like, and how to identify it?

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Unlike other animals that remove food from their bodies over the course of hours or days, snakes defecate all food waste at once. In some ways, they're actually a lot like birds. They excrete both feces and urine, which can cause their poop to look watery and white due to the uric acid in it.

Possum poo

Opossums are the only native marsupials in the United States and Canada. They are common in your yard, rummaging through your trash like raccoons, and even making a home in your house! Although they help eat ticks, they can still spread disease. Not to mention, they can become aggressive when threatened.

Overall, opossum poop looks almost identical to dog poop. The best way to tell it apart is by the smooth sides of each black tubular piece. Each piece is approximately 1 to 3 inches long and slightly curled.

You can also identify possum droppings by smell! Opossums, while cute, have a reputation for being a bit smelly, and so is their poop!

armadillo droppings

Have you ever noticed holes in your garden and yard? These are probably due to armadillos! To help identify them, let's look at their waste.

Armadillo droppings are usually round. However, this is not a perfect circle. It's also not uniform, and one day's stool can look completely different than a different time of day. The appearance depends on what the armadillo eats and digests.

One of the main identifying features is the soil. This is because armadillos have a habitat that eats dirt!

lizard poo

Lizards can come in many different shapes and sizes. As such, not all lizard droppings are the same, which makes droppings identification a bit tricky.

Like other types of reptiles and birds, lizards excrete both feces and urine. However, lizard droppings are unique in one way. Their poop is a long, black tube with a small white cap at the end, which is actually their urine!

frog and toad poo

Frogs are some of the most common amphibians. They thrive in most areas, but not all live in water. That means frogs and toads can easily show up in your yard, or even your house. Although they're mostly harmless, it's best to help these cute critters get outside. Plus, while their barking sounds fun, you probably don't want one in your home. What's the best way to tell if a visitor is a frog or a toad? Of course looking for their waste!

Frog and toad droppings are actually quite large. In fact, it can be as large as a third of their body. This is similar to a 6 foot person making 2 feet of poo! So when you first stumble across frog or toad droppings, you might think it's from a larger animal. Cylindrical, dark brown. If it is fresh, it will be shiny. However, it dries out quickly and loses that wet look.

iguana droppings

Iguanas are common in warm, humid regions. Iguana droppings range in color from light brown to almost black and are long tubes. Like lizards, they also have urine in their excrement, although it is white or yellow pellets rather than white caps.

Risks Associated with Animal Feces

One of the main reasons why learning to recognize wildlife droppings is important is the associated health risks. All animals, even pets, put you at risk with their excrement. From parasites to viruses to bacteria, there's no shortage of risks when it comes to animal waste.

Some of the most common risks associated with animal waste include:

  • Different types of worms and parasites
  • coli spread
  • Cryptosporidiosis
  • trachoma

Animal waste can also contaminate natural food sources and waterways.

How to keep animals out of your yard

One of the best ways to reduce your risk of exposure to these harmful hazards is to keep animals out of your yard. Fencing helps keep large animals like deer out, if possible. For bears, raccoons and possums, making sure your trash cans are safe and clean can help keep them out of your home.

Of course, your yard is a part of nature, and there is no foolproof way to keep all animals out of your property. However, keeping your yard clean and tidy, free of litter or clutter, can help.

How to Clean Up Animal Waste

While it may seem easiest to simply scoop up wildlife waste with a puppy bag, it's not actually a safe way to clean up. Instead, you need to make sure you use gloves and a bag to clean up solid poop. From there, you'll need to sterilize the area with boiling water. Depending on the species, the Centers for Disease Control may recommend more in-depth methods of cleaning up wildlife waste.

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