Do you think a fox has been frequenting around your backyard? Or are you going for a forest picnic and want to avoid areas where the foxes reside? But how would you go about it? Although often undermined, fox poop is the best telltale of a fox’s territory.
Being nocturnal predators, foxes hunt at night and are rarely encountered by humans. Although foxes do not attack humans instinctively, not all wild foxes can be accounted for. Rabid foxes, in particular, pose a potential threat to human beings as well as their pets.
Foxes are omnivorous animals and eat both plants as well as animals. Their scat contains the undigested part of their diet and can give you a good idea of what they have been eating recently. But how would you identify fox scat? What does it look like? Read on to find out everything you need to know about fox scat identification.
So, what does fox poop look like? Fox poop is usually two to three inches long in length, and have pointy ends. Fox scat usually contains the undigested berry seeds and traces of hairs and bones of animals they prey on. Fox droppings may look similar to dog droppings at first glance. However, you can easily distinguish between the two with a more in-depth analysis of the scat.
Features of Fox Poop
Now, let’s talk about the features of fox scat in detail.
The shape of a fox scat is tubular in shape, with pointy edges at both ends. It is about 2 inches long, with a diameter of ½ inches. The dropping is often in one single string, but you can find two or three strings of poop at times, too.
While the poop is fresh, it looks wet and smooth on the surface. However, when dry, the scat looks rugged and somewhat tight on the surface. Wet fox poop is a sign that the fox is somewhere nearby.
The color of the fox poop varies with the food it eats. It usually ranges from tan to dark brown in shade. While the scat of foxes living in forests or rural areas is dark brown, the urban fox scat is lighter in color. The scat of urban fox has more in common with dog scat than their rural siblings.
Fox scat contains traces of food that the fox eats. Many parts of their diet are not entirely digested and leave their bodies as they are through poop. For instance, the scat might contain hairs and bones of animals they prey on, as well as seeds of the fruits they eat.
Foxes are territorial animals and tend to use their urine and scat to mark their territory. Therefore, you will rarely find fox scat in random places. Fox usually prefers to poo on a rock, a tree bark, or other similar locations. If you closely follow the trail of fox scat, you can get a rough idea of their territory.
Fox scat don’t smell half as bad as dog scat, but they have a unique, ‘musky’ smell. However, a smeared fox poop can smell quite unpleasant.
How to examine the fox scat?
A close examination of fox scat says a lot about the fox’s lifestyle, diet patterns, habitat areas, and other behavioral characteristics.
While you can observe the color, length, smell, and shape of the scat from a near distance, you can use a stick to break it apart and examine its contents.
In these contents, you can find the undigested parts of their food, which will help you to better understand their diet.
Warning: The fox scat poses a number of potential risks to your health. Thus, maintain a safe distance while examining the scat. You can also practice wearing face masks and gloves during fox scat identification.
Careless handling, consuming, or even close inhalation of fox scat can lead to diseases.
Diseases that can spread through fox scat
Fox scat contains tapeworm eggs, which can lead to Echinococcosis both in humans as well as other animals. The disease spreads through close contact.
In humans, Echinococcosis leads to the birth of hydatid cysts in the liver and lungs. Sometimes, the cysts also grow in the spleen, bones, kidney, muscles, and central nervous system. Some of the common symptoms of Echinococcosis are weakness, anorexia, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
Dogs can get infected with Echinococcosis either through direct contact with fox scat containing tapeworm eggs or through eating rodents who are infected with it. The disease generally infects the gastrointestinal tracts in dogs and remains confined within the intestines. Dogs do not show any symptoms when infected with the disease. A fecal test conducted on your pet can confirm the presence of the disease in their bodies.
Also known as Visceral Larva Migrans (VLM), Toxocariasis is an infection that spreads through the larvae of the roundworms (toxocara canis) present in the intestine of the fox. Common symptoms of covert Toxocariasis on humans are coughing, headache, fever, abdominal pain, changes in behavioral and sleeping patterns.
How to differentiate fox scat from the droppings of other animals?
Although we have discussed at length on what does a fox poop looks like, there are many other animals with somewhat similar-looking scats. How can you ensure that the scat you’re looking at is a fox’s?
To help you identify fox scat better, given below are the descriptions of other animal scats that you can easily confuse with fox scat:
It is fairly common to mistake a badger’s poop with fox scat due to their slightly similar odor. Both the fox’s as well as the badger’s poop have a faint musky smell. However, there’s one major difference between the two that you can easily spot.
Unlike fox, badgers have a tendency to dig up holes for defecating. You can find these latrines or holes dug up around the borders of their territory.
Bears have the largest size of droppings, with up to 2 inches of diameter. Being omnivores, they feed mainly of fruits in summer and fall, while to tend to consume animal meat towards winters.
Therefore, their scat appears more scattered in summers than in winters. You can easily differentiate between bear and fox scat.
Although a coyote’s diet is more or less similar to that of a fox, the former is larger in size. The size of a coyote can be judged from coyote’s scat, which, although similar in color and texture, is larger than fox scat.
The droppings of a deer have more in common with rabbit scat than fox scat. Instead of one long scat, they are scattered in many small and round (almost oval) droppings of dark brown color. In winters, deer droppings can turn lighter in the shade.
Hedgehog’s scat is shaped like a small sausage and is black and shiny in appearance. It mostly contains pips from the berries they eat, and occasionally remains of an insect.
Unlike the pointy edges of fox scat, the hedgehog scat is tapered at one end and curved at the other. Its dark color distinguishes it from the fox scat as well.
Mountain lion Poop
Mountain lion scat can stretch up to 5 inches in length with a diameter of 1¼ inches, much longer than regular fox scat. The length and thickness are the defining factors of differentiation between the mountain lion and fox scat.
You can easily differentiate between rabbit droppings and fox scat; they do not look similar at all. While fox scat is long and tubular, rabbit droppings are almost pea-sized, ranging from black to green in color.
Raccoon scat, like fox scat, has a tubular shape with three inches of length. However, when it comes to feces, raccoons have a special organization skill that most animals, including fox, lack.
Raccoons don’t leave their droppings around randomly. Instead, they find a common place where many raccoons defecate, a sort of latrine. This is very unlike the fox, which is used to living and defecating alone.
Snake scat has a brownish shade and a strong odor. Their scat is oblong in shape and liquid in texture. It’s covered with urea. The liquid consistency of the poop often confuses people into believing it to be bird poop.
Apart from the shape and texture, another major difference between snake and fox scat is that snakes are strictly carnivores. Thus, you can never find fruit seeds or plant materials in their poop.
Taking a closer look at fox scat
What is scat made up of? The wastes remaining from the food they consume. Therefore, in order to learn more about fox scat, we must first learn about a fox’s diet.
Diet of a fox
Being an omnivore, foxes have a diverse diet, containing both plant materials as well as meat. Although they eat most of the fruits and vegetables, berries are more preferred by them. Since the summer and fall months bring a rich growth of vegetation, foxes take advantage of it.
However, towards winter, they need to hunt more for the lack of abundant vegetation. A fox kills twice in a week on an average. Thus, they are heavily dependent on fruits and vegetables. In animals, foxes hunt and kill small game such as rats, hamsters, rabbits, birds, poultry, etc.
Therefore, their scat contains remains of fruits such as seeds, or hair, feathers, and occasionally undigested bones of smaller animals.
Does the scat of all foxes look the same?
No, the scat of different species of foxes looks different as well. There are about 37 different species of foxes in the world. However, out of these, only 12 are considered to be ‘true fox’.
All these foxes have different characteristics and habitats, according to which their diets, and in turn, scat, differ.
To classify the foxes according to their scat, we can roughly divide them into two groups based on their size. One group is of the average-sized foxes, such as the red fox, whose height ranges between 35-50 cm.
The other group is of smaller foxes. Fennec fox, the smallest fox species, are included in this group. They grow to a height of 20 cm.
Let’s take a look at how their scats are different:
Average-sized fox scat
As we mentioned earlier, an average-sized fox scat is up to 2 inches long with a diameter of ½ inches.
Foxes have a different method of digestion.
The undigestible animal hair they eat wraps itself around the bones so that the bones can pass safely through their stomach without creating a problem and can be excreted as a stool.
Therefore, you can notice in their stool how animal hair is mainly on the surface while bones inside. When they eat fruits and vegetables, you can often find undigested bits and pieces of it in the scat.
Smaller fox scat
Due to their small size, these foxes have a much smaller diet and, thus, excrete smaller scat. Their scat is more similar to rabbit droppings than average fox scat.
However, since they are not herbivores like rabbits, their scat can be differentiated from them by the presence of hair and insects remains in them.
How can fox scat identification help you?
There’s a dedicated study of feces, known as Scatology or Coprology, in which professionals study animals’ feces to gain insight into their biological behavior, such as diet, health, etc.
Fox scat identification can help you in a similar way. If you have been noticing poop that looks like fox scat, it means a fox has been frequenting around your neighborhood. How can this help you?
If you have younger children, you can avoid letting them play in out alone. You can also avoid going out alone in the dark since foxes are nocturnal and venture out at night. While foxes haven’t been known to hurt humans, you’d rather be safe than sorry.
If you own a pet dog or cat, you can keep them indoors after dark. If you’re a pet parent to a rabbit or poultry birds, you need to be more careful. Although foxes usually avoid messing with pet dogs or cats, rabbits and poultry are the ideal game for them.
However, if the fox scat contains mainly of fruits and vegetable remains, it’s probably an urban fox which is less likely to harm your or your pets.
Likewise, if you’re going hiking, camping, or a picnic in the woods, you can identify a fox’s territory by following their scat trails and steer clear of them. By the quantity of the scat, you can also get a rough estimate of how many foxes frequent that area, to calculate the potential threat.
Can you track a fox using fox scat?
Yes, you certainly can. Most professional hunters and trackers use scat to track down animals. The first thing you need to learn is how to identify fox scat. Once you have learned that the process becomes much easier.
As we mentioned before, foxes don’t defecate at random places. Being territorial animals, they mark their territory by defecating around the area. Therefore, by simply following the trail and smell of fox scat, you can identify an area they frequent.
Other signs to look out for
If you are tracking a fox, you should also learn to identify and follow their footprints. Foxes have padded feet and four toes, and their footprints leave behind the marks of their sharp toenails.
If you follow their footprints, you can find your way to their dens as well.
Foxes have a tendency to dig up holes and bury their leftovers. If you find scratched land, you dig up the remains that could lead you to your fox.
Foxes communicate with their kin by sending signals by their urine. Sometimes, they urinate in the area where they have buried the leftovers. However, their urination also marks a danger zone for other foxes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does it mean if a fox poops on my doorstep? Foxes use their scat to mark their territory. If a fox poops on your doorstep, it most likely considers your garden to be its territory and is trying to ward other foxes off. You can also smell fox urine around your home or garden if that’s the case.
How should I deal with the fox scat in my garden? Fox scats contain tapeworm eggs and other micro-organisms that are toxic to you and your children. If you find fox scat in your garden, clean it properly, and wash your garden afterward.
Does fox scat have a distinct smell? Fox scat has a faint musky scent, though it is much weaker than that of dog poop. However, once it’s dry, you might not be able to smell it at all.
Can fox scat harm dogs? Yes, fox scat is lethal to dogs. Dogs have a habit of inhaling everything, which, in the case of fox scat, and lead to severe infections. In many cases, inhaling and ingesting fox scats have led to the death of pet dogs.