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    A COMPENDIUM FOR THE DRY GARDEN

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Some Scat

I thought I’d post a scat entry with photos.  Some I’m sure of, many I’m not.  Not all have size references.  Sorry about that.  I’m now starting to carry around a penny which I’ll put with future photos.  A penny is exactly 3/4″ in diameter.

Breaking up scat helps in identification and is a window into what the animal was eating.  Smelling scat (do not smell raccoon scat as they can carry a parasite that is fatal to humans) also holds clues.

Animals communicate vast amounts of information through markings and scat.  Many times I’ve watched Koda intently smell an area, then urinate on it.

Koda with his nose in a squirrel hole

Koda with his nose in a squirrel hole

One time he was smelling a log that had no obvious scat on it.  Because he is still a pup, he started licking the log to ‘uptake’ the smell better.  I got down and smelled the log and was overpowered by a extremely pungent smell.  Other times he spends a lot of time smelling an area and when I put my nose to the ground, I can’t discern anything.

One time in California I was at the tracking club meeting.  We were circling a large field and found mountain lion scat.  The group leader advised everyone to get down and sniff it.  One whiff of that scat and you’ll never forget it.  It made the hairs inside my nose stand on end for a long time.  Imagine your kitty litter box, then multiply that smell 10-fold.

Last year in the spring I had both my dogs with me in Wyoming.  My old dog started making a beeline for the woods.  I followed her to a fairly fresh turkey kill, probably from a coyote.  The kill was in the nearby vicinity of the cabin and the magpies were already on it.  The 2 dogs spent lots of time chewing and further demolishing it. Early the next morning, on the walkway in front of my house, a coyote left his fresh scat.  My old dog smelled it, but before I could hardly look at it, the 6 month old dog gobbled it up.  Koda was still learning about smells and scats, and eating it is another way to really remember it.  (I, personally, will not go that far!)  I had the distinct impression this particular scat was left for my dogs as a calling card, as if to say, ‘this is my territory and that was my turkey you fooled with.’

I’m a crazy beginner at this.  I find it’s a fun way to explore what’s happening around me. Learning scat takes practice and lots of direct experience.  I take photos, then go home and look at Mammal Tracks & Signs by Mark Elbroch.  Elbroch’s book contains tons of color photos throughout.  He includes photos of tracks, scat, as well as sign.  The book is thick at over 750 pages. Too bad he doesn’t include ‘scratch and sniff’.

Unknown scat

This one's unknown, found in the woods nearby

Marmot in hole with scat above

See Marmot scat at top of photo. Marmot's in his hole.

pack rat scat

Years of pack rat scat.

Canid scat

Could be coyote or wolf. 25% of wolf scat is coyote size.

Bobcat I think.  Smells like it.

Smelled like a cat. Bobcat I think. Cat's digest 90% of the bones.

Owl droppings

Owl on tree. Notice the white droppings.

Bear sweet smelling scat in the spring

Big pile of bear scat. All forbs/grasses. They clean themselves in the spring with grass.

Mustelid I think.  Smelly and strong.

Some kind of mustelid I think. It was skunky smelling.

Another mustelid, I think.  On the same trail as the other scat.

Another mustelid, I think. On the same trail as the other scat.

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The Bobcat

It was a beautiful morning.  I walked outside around 9:30 and threw the ball for Koda.  A large cat-like animal appeared out from the marshy meadows and stood next to the fence line.  Immediately I recognized it as a bobcat.  JB had told me several days ago that he saw a bobcat in his fields across the road.  I called the dog and sat down to watch the cat.  He was beautiful.  Much larger and more muscular than a big tomcat.Bobcat watching a ground squirrel

The bobcat sat in the sun for a few minutes when something caught his attention.  I looked across the meadows and saw a ground squirrel sitting on his mound.  The bobcat crouched low and made his way slowly in the squirrel’s direction.  He ran along the fenceposts, stopping behind one for several minutes.  He crossed a short span of meadow, then ran low along the side of the nearby house till he was directly in line with the ground squirrel.  At a distance of about 15 feet from the rodent, the bobcat sat perfectly still, watching and waiting.  Bobcat stalking amidst grass

By now the squirrel seemed to have caught wind that something was going on and was back in his hole.  The cat waited patiently though.  I’d been watching all this for at least 15 minutes.  I went inside to use my scope for a better view and try to shoot a few pictures.  Finally, the bobcat got bored and ran off to find an easier meal.

About 5 minutes after the cat left, I glanced out the window and saw the squirrel not just looking around from his hole, but on top of the nearby septic clean-out pipe.  I might be anthropomorphising here, but that squirrel seemed to be gloating to me.Gloating ground squirrel

When I was in California, I belonged to a tracking club.  We met once a month at Abbot’s Lagoon in Point Reyes.  That beach had lots of activity–coyotes, mice, otters, deer, opossums, racoons–but the most reliable tracks were of a bobcat.  The bobcat had an obvious route.  He started out from somewhere in the thick brush and followed a track alongside the lagoon.  There were latrines along the way and always kill sites.  Seeing that that bobcat had a regular hunting route, I wondered if my Wyoming bobcat had one too, and if I had observed him on it.  I have been investigating how to use ‘track plates’ and maybe I’ll try and make some.

Half hour later as I was driving my dirt road, I started thinking about how that bobcat lost his meal.  I wondered what made him give up on the ground squirrel, just shy of it reappearing.

Without warning, a Unita ground squirrel ran across the road.  I tried to veer but he was too slow and I was too fast.  Getting out of my car, I pulled him off to the side of the road, maybe secretly hoping my bobcat would find him.  I was still pretty close to home still and the thought that it was so easy for me to kill this squirrel and so difficult for the bobcat, haunted me.  There was something awfully strange in this synchronicity.  Bobcat print