It can be disconcerting to stumble across some unidentified poop in your backyard especially when it looks different to regular cat or dog poop, and the origins and culprit may not – at first glance – be clear to you.
Skunk poop is not dissimilar in size and shape to many other unwanted visitors that may decide to frequent your yard and garden and often, the key differentiator comes down to the fact it will almost certainly contain undigested parts of the animal’s diet.
If you’re not keen on the idea of dissecting the offending feces, then read on to understand how to differentiate Skunk scat from other animal droppings and what else to consider if identification is not clear-cut.
What Does Skunk Poop Look Like
Skunk poop or skunk scat can be identified by size and shape, contents, color, and odor. As is the case with many wild animals, it’s even possible to determine the particular species with just a little investigative work and know-how.
Typically, black or dark brown in color, and with a very distinct and unpleasant odor, their droppings mainly contain undigested matter such as seeds, berries, fur, bone, or insect parts.
Of course, the shade of color, and the texture can vary depending on what the animal was able to forage pre-digestion and, how long ago the poop was deposited.
Fresh skunk droppings will be moist and may have white or yellow streaks and a firm texture. Older poop will be faded and more likely to be brittle and dry.
It’s a good idea to have a good understanding of what skunk poop looks like if you suspect you have a skunk living on or frequenting your yard or garden. Knowing what the scat looks like and where you found it will come in handy when it comes to trapping a skunk.
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Size and Shape
Skunk scat is typically cylindrical in shape, with blunt ends. They measure about ½ inch in diameter, and between 2 and 4 inches in length.
Spotted skunks have identically shaped, but smaller droppings in comparison to other skunk species.
What Do Skunks Eat
Skunks are omnivores and in the wild mostly feed on insects – especially beetles and small vertebrates, such as lizards, snakes, mice, and birds. They also eat fruits that have fallen from trees or bushes and vegetables if available.
In urban settings, Skunk will eat just about anything they can get their paws on, from the contents of trash cans to pet food that has been left outdoors.
They do make some exceptions, however. Citrus fruit, herbs, alliums, and vinegar are definitely off the menu. These highly scented foods send their senses into overdrive causing disorientation and general discomfort.
Skunk Poop Vs Cat Poop
Skunk poop is very similar to cat poop and when it comes to shape and size the two are nearly identical. Both are 2-4 inches in length, approximately 1/2″ in diameter, oblong in shape, and with blunt ends.
Unlike cats, skunks eat living animals, and it would not be uncommon to see small pieces of their skeleton, feathers as well as fur in skunk scat.
Cat droppings shouldn’t have animal parts in them. In the main, your cat eats processed food, so things like bones and hair aren’t part of your cat’s regular diet.
There are a couple of ways that will help you identify who the poop belongs to if you are still unsure. Firstly, cats are likely to be easier to spot as they can be active during the day as well as at night. Alternatively, you could check the contents of the poop.
Of course, for most people, this might sound disgusting, plus, there is always a risk of coming into contact with bacteria or disease. A word of caution, always wear gloves and use a stick to prod about in the droppings rather than using your hands.
Skunk Poop Vs Possum Scat
Possum droppings are also very similar to skunk droppings in size, shape, and color. Since skunks and possums have virtually the same diet, it can prove difficult to positively identify possum droppings from skunk droppings.
When it comes to eating habits, possums don’t eat fruit with seeds, so there will never be any seeds in their feces. However, since skunks are not great climbers, they will only tend to eat fruit that can be scavenged from the ground, and because windfall fruit is an opportunistic find, seeds aren’t always present in their poop.
A better way of ensuring a positive identification is by their tracks, burrows, digging holes, and odor.
Where Do Skunks Poop
It’s important to know what skunk poop looks like, but the location is just as important – here’s why.
Skunks don’t poop in their own den – they’ll leave their den to poop, preferring to poop near their feeding spot or on their way to feed.
Observing the location of these droppings will help you to understand whether a skunk is living in your yard, or if it is just coming to your yard to feed, as chances are they will be taking the same route to and from their burrow to the food source.
To further assist your investigations, you could set up a motion-activated camera to capture nighttime activities.
If an animal deems a path safe, it’ll take the same path over and over again. So, if skunk poop keeps appearing in one part of your backyard, you can count on the skunk (or whichever animal it is) passing through the same area again.
Species and Distribution
Something to keep in mind when trying to identify the species by droppings is their distribution across the continent:
Striped Skunks are found all over the USA, parts of Canada, and the northernmost parts of Mexico.
Hooded Skunks are found in Mexico and only a small patch in the American South.
Western Spotted Skunks are located in the western half of the United States, as well as the northern half of Mexico.
Eastern Spotted Skunks can be found in the eastern United States. These animals produce smaller droppings compared to striped and hooded skunks, mostly because they’re lighter animals that require less food.
It is worth checking with your local pest control agency to discuss which animals are most likely leaving the droppings to rule out those that don’t reside in your area.
The foot tracks of a Skunk are easy to distinguish and can often lead to a positive identification without the need to conduct an autopsy on the poop.
Skunk tracks are about 2.5 inches long (although that depends on the individual specimen), and they have 5 toes that end with claws. The forefeet of a skunk leave shorter tracks as they don’t have heel pads – hind feet tracks are longer and they have characteristic heel pads.
In addition to tracks, you might find holes in the ground. Skunks dig to find grubs, insects, and earthworms, which provide them with valuable protein. The holes are shallow and small, about 2 inches in diameter.
These signs of clawing or digging are most likely to be accompanied by droppings nearby too.
Is Skunk Scat Dangerous
Skunks are known to be carriers of viruses, diseases, and parasites and whilst the transmission is usually through direct contact with the animal, it is still imperative to avoid touching their feces to prevent accidental ingestion or contact with eyes and skin.
Skunk scat, as well as raccoon scat, can carry Francisella tularensis, a bacterium that causes tularemia. Also known as rabbit fever, tularemia can’t spread between people, but it can spread from an animal to a person.
If treated on time, the death rate is less than 4%, but this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be careful when handling animal droppings.
The droppings of a skunk can also be home to Baylisascaris columnaris, which is a type of roundworm. It’s unknown how many skunks are infested with roundworms, and it’s unlikely that the parasite will show in the feces.
The eggs of this roundworm variant are incredibly resistant and they can remain viable for years despite high or low temperatures. Chances of infection are low, though, as you’d have to ingest the roundworm.
I also have to mention here both leptospirosis and listeriosis. The former is a bacterial disease spread through the urine of infected animals. If you come in contact with the urine (directly, or through water, soil (garden work), and food), you can get infected.
The disease is treatable, but the symptoms are painful, as they include body aches, chills, vomiting, a fever, and diarrhea.
Listeriosis is an infection caused by the Listeria germ and you can only get infected by eating contaminated food. This, however, is very rare as a skunk would have to urinate over your food.
Risk of Disease
The risk of getting infected with whatever can be found in skunk feces is low. Infection usually only occurs as a result of either the germs and bacteria moving from the feces to the soil or if your pet has picked it up.
As a precaution, always avoid touching your mouth, eyes, or open wounds if you have been working outdoors or playing with your pet until you can wash. Alternatively, wear protective gloves.
Does Skunk Poop Smell Like Skunk Spray
Skunk poop does not smell pleasant but it is not as offensive as skunk spray. Skunk scat smells like most other animal droppings but will quickly mellow as it dries out. Their spray on the other hand can induce eye-watering and coughing fits and can leave a lingering rank smell of rotten eggs and amonia for several weeks.
Skunks produce and omit their spray to deter potential predators and because it has such a powerful odor it is highly effective. It can take a skunk up to 2 weeks to refill its anal glands and be able to spray again.
Final Thoughts on Identifying Skunk Poop
The droppings are small, no longer than 4 inches, with blunt edges and about half an inch in diameter.
Skunks defecate near their den, but rarely inside it. They are most likely to poop on a route they regularly take between their burrow and feeding spot. The droppings are similar to cat and possum droppings, but the contents are different.
To make a positive identification you’ll need to spot the skunk too however, this can be problematic unless you have motion or heat-sensing cameras due to their nocturnal nature.
Other ways to know for sure include examining the poop itself for signs of undigested beetle shells, or small animal remains. However, since this carries a safety risk, you could also look for tracks, markings, and/or their den.