Monday, November 27, 2017

Coyote Scat - The Story Inside The Poop

Right now, in the western North Carolina backcountry we are in the prime of the deer rut and the bucks are going crazy. Rubbings and ground scratching are everywhere you go. This is very exciting to see, but if you look closely there is also a lot of other wildlife movement going on around the mountain man area equally as exciting yet much more elusive.

On a hike this week in the Raven Knob backcountry, I consider this the biggest prize of all, and I've been studying the pictures closely to unravel the mystery. Found this hair-clad scat right in the middle of a trail, somewhat aged but still not too old and in excellent shape for dissecting. (see picture on right) Very hard to see unless you were walking slow and looking carefully. I spent at least 45 minutes picking it apart, first finding a small bone fragment which I thought was part of a lower jaw, but no clear tooth. (see picture below)


 I proceeded to investigate all of the mostly grey hair dung, finding several more bone fragments, ...then there it was under the mummifying-like hair, a very discernible half digested squirrel skull (see picture directly below) and some perfect rear molar teeth (used for grinding), and also including orange front teeth (used for cutting-see last picture lower left side) indicating a rodent, with the size indicating a squirrel. That was an exciting moment!

 Now, the mystery was whether this was from a coyote or a bobcat, which were the two best possibilities for this area, although coyotes are much more present. If there had been some feathers, then I would start leaning with the cat, but there were none. A bobcat would also be more likely to cover his excrement, or at least leave some scratch marks, but no indication of that either. Therefore, I tend to conclude that it was a coyote who brought down the squirrel.

Lots of action in the backcounty and a lot of fun clues that most people never see because they never look. The mountain men were professional trackers, trappers, and scouters because they spent most of their time doing it. Their very lives depended upon catching all of those little elusive clues in the cycle of life. While most of us today lead lives that don't allow us to put in the necessary 'dirt time' to become a professional survivalist and tracker, we can still learn a lot about what makes the natural world around us tick. Next time that you're in the woods, walk slow, be quiet, listen more, and look for the tiny clues that tell the full story, and you will surely discover action equally as fascinating as the deer rut.

1 comment:

  1. I never got to thank you for all the help you gave back in the E-mun-talee wilderness camp. thank you from the bottom of my heart, the worl needs more people link you sir .

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