Photo: The poop on scat... and other wildlife skills

This is moose poop. You'll know because it looks like chocolate almonds. (Credit: Kent McFarland via Flickr)

Summer is a time for off-grid experiences like hiking, canoeing, biking, or camping. This year, enrich your next outdoor adventure — whether it's a walk in the woods at the family cabin, or a trip into the back country.

Learn to read animal signs

Simple clues can tell you who calls the area home. Claw marks or rubs and scrapes on trees, trails through the forest, or poop (also known by its scientific name, "scat") can be very revealing! (Think wildlife CSI)

Scat shape and size depends on what the animal eats. A few tips to tell hoofed animals apart (with visuals you won't soon forget):

  • Moose scat looks like chocolate almonds
  • Elk scat resembles chocolate kisses
  • Deer scat looks like chocolate-covered raisins

Protect wildlife trees

Standing dead trees, also known as wildlife trees, make excellent habitat. Think twice before you fell one near your campsite or on your property.

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A tree remains part of the forest long after its death. In fact, some remain standing for up to half the time they stood while alive. They may not be pleasing to the human eye, but dead treetops or branches without leaves or needles make ideal observation posts and hunting perches.

Loose bark on a dead tree can be home to bats or small birds, providing shelter and safety. The size of the hole in a tree can tell you which species lives there. Chickadees use cavity entrances 3.5 cm wide, while the Northern Flicker needs a cavity 6.5 cm wide.

A large tree that's rotten inside is the perfect chamber for nesting Great Horned Owls. A tree with a broken top provides a cavity, perch, or open nest site for flying squirrels, hawks, or eagles.

Only cut down trees that pose a safety risk to you, your home, or property.

Use designated firewood

Don't collect firewood from the forest floor. You could be disturbing the home of a salamander!

When a tree falls in a forest, its role in nature is far from over. Decaying trees recycle nutrients, which builds up the soil. Fallen trees become homes for insects, like carpenter ants, which are a delicacy to pileated woodpeckers and black bears. Leave no Trace outdoor ethics recommends only using small pieces of wood no larger than the diameter of your wrist, or designated firewood.

Do you have a favourite close-encounter-with-wildlife story?

Sincerely,
Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green

July 18, 2011
http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/queen-of-green/2011/07/the-poop-on-scat-and-other-wildlife-skills/

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3 Comments

Jan 13, 2017
8:48 AM

I would like to know the David Susuki Foundation’s position on feeding deer and wildlife in general such as birds and squirrels. I have a friend that feeds deer high quality food in Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg Mb. where the deer seem to be really starved and small for their age. She also feeds birds and squirrels in the park which is managed by a private company who is hostile to anyone who feeds wildlife. We firmly believe that the management for this park wants to get rid of the wildlife and a lot of the forest in order commercialize it. However, aside from this, I would appreciate knowing what your foundation’s position on the value of feeding wildlife in general is, especially the deer in this case? Sincerely, Leonard.

Jul 20, 2011
11:11 AM

You’re welcome, Girl Guides of Canada! Thank YOU for facilitating the important connection between today’s youth and the natural environment. Keep up the great work!

Jul 18, 2011
11:56 AM

We do love nature and are always happy to learn about new ways to protect the environment. Teaching our girls how to recognize tell tale signs of what animal lives in a given area, or what firewood to use, are great ways to teach them, and all kids, to appreciate nature. Thanks for sharing this great post! Girl Guides of Canada -Guides du Canada

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