Did You Know?
Coyotes are such excellent swimmers that they have populated the Elizabeth Islands of Massachusetts by swimming from its mainland.
The coyote is a medium-sized animal, that was once restricted to the plains of the American Northwest. However, the rising human interference in nature, especially after the end of the nineteenth century, ensured both, the decline of gray wolves―the coyote's chief rival―and the easy availability of food scraps in trash bins. The versatile animals that they are, coyotes soon took advantage of the situation, and spread out to cover the entire United States, with the exception of Hawaii.
While coyotes may appear heavy due to their thick fur, most individuals only weigh between 30 to 40 pounds. They are known for their resemblance to dogs, wolves, and foxes, which is justified, considering that they all share the same family. However, the coyote's rising population in the country has not gone down well with many people, especially the farmers, who blame it for killing their livestock. Besides its sightings, the presence of a coyote in an area can be confirmed by identifying any other signs it leaves behind, such as its scat. Let us see how to identify coyote droppings.
► Coyote droppings are large, tubular, and resemble a twisted rope, with several segments.
► The droppings are between ¾ to 1½ inches in diameter, and between 3 to 5 inches in length. The droppings of males are larger than that of females, and those of big males may even reach lengths between 6 to 12 inches.
► An important characteristic of coyote droppings is that, they have long, curly, and tapering ends.
► Their droppings contain a mixture of animal and plant matter. They may contain insect casings, feathers, fur, and bones from small mammals like rats, mice, shrews, and other rodents, apart from rabbits and carrion. The scat will also contain plant matter like fruits, berries, seeds, nuts, and grass, which is consumed to remove fur and intestinal worms lodged in their digestive systems.
► The color of coyote scat varies with its diet and the time elapsed since defecation. A meat-rich diet results in a dark-red to black-colored scat, thanks to its blood content. Ordinarily, droppings range from dark-gray to brown in color. With time, they tend to get bleached and become lighter in color due to exposure to the elements.
► Coyote feces lacks odor in most cases, though sometimes, they have a musty smell.
► The droppings mostly consist of two to three turds, though more numbers are possible, as coyotes are known to use communal latrines.
► In the summers, the scat contains more insect and berry remnants, making it small, breakable, and bright-colored.
► It may be formless or semi-liquid if the animal's diet solely consists of meat.
► During the winters, the scat contains a higher proportion of fur and bone bits, because this is the period when coyotes consume more meat. Droppings are also larger in the winters.
► Coyote feces often tends to get confused with that of dogs and wolves, which is an issue between animals belonging to the same family. The points of difference between them are:
- Coyote droppings show a variety of constituents, have tapering ends, lesser segments, no odor; that of dogs are more homogenous (with cereal content), lack tapering ends, more segmented, and have a repulsive odor.
- Coyote droppings are smoother, have diameters smaller than 1 inch, and show remnants of smaller mammals; wolf droppings are larger and show remnants of bigger mammals like deer and beavers.
► Coyote droppings are mostly found on trails, ridges, crossroads, and on clumps of vegetation or rocks. If the trail is located near a slope, droppings will be usually laid at the bottom of the slope, or at the topmost point.
► It is believed that coyotes use their droppings and urine to mark their territory, and warn rivals from intruding. This is why their scat is usually found on those trails where the most animals are likely to pass by. Another important sign is scratch marks found on the ground near their droppings.
Approaching coyote droppings is quite safe, and wildlife experts even routinely handle them for closer inspection. However, adequate care must be taken when observing or handling droppings of any animal, as they may contain infectious microbes, some of which are even released as airborne particles that can be inhaled. So, the next time you see coyote poop in your yard, make sure to put on a pair of protective gloves and a respirator before handling it.