Animal droppings

Asked January 17, 2014, 1:14 PM EST

I wonder if you can help identify what animal(s) is leaving droppings in my backyard. They only occur on the lawn, not in the shrub beds bordering the lawn. There are probably 20 deposits in the somewhat small area the lawn comprises. I have included pictures, but please know these droppings are weeks old - when newer, they appeared quite moist, smooth, with almost an oval shape rather than elongated. I would guess raccoon, as I never see any animals (aside from an occaisional cat) in the backyard during the day - but pictures of raccoon droppings seem to contain pieces of what they've been eating, and as noted, these were smooth and uniform when new. Thanks you for your help. (If you can identify the animal, can you also give me some hints on ridding my backyard of them? For the past 2 years, starting in late summer I've had animals, unseen (noctural?) that would dig up the lawn and soil in the garden - no plants harmed or eaten, my guess is searching for food in the lawn and garden soil. I used a general animal repellent around the border of the lawn (arbor vitae form a fence between my and neighbor's lawns - so it is 'porous' to animal - curiously, my neighbors don't appear to have the digging problem - don't know about the scat problem - but they're clearly using my grass area as a latrine.) Thank you. James Koretz jkoretz@gmail.com (541) 653 8795

Lane County Oregon nuisance wildlife wildlife identification

5 Responses

From your preliminary photo and description, I suspect that your yard might be hosting nutria. The digging behavior, use of grass, and frequent deposits of scats in the area all support this being the work of nutria. However it would be helpful to know more about your site and the size of the droppings you are observing. Is your property near or bordered by a water feature? When fresh, how wide and long are the droppings? I will be happy to follow up with you about potential ways to control or prevent the damage issue you are experiencing, but it is important that we get a confident identification of what animal is doing the damage so that you can be efficient in your management actions.


Hello Dana,

I had sent you an earlier email answering some of your questions about the animal droppings (20-30 deposits, over several months) in my backyard. As I said in my first reply, it seems unlikely Nutria are the culprits, given that the nearest water source is about 1/4 miles (maybe a bit less) away, and there are plenty of backyards between my house and the water source, given that it is entirely a residential neighborhood.
The first image I've attached - IMG00183.jpg, shows you a part of the backyard - a fairly small grass area surrounded by flower beds, and fenced on two sides by arbor vitae, which, of course, is porous to any animals. The third side is a 6-8 foot tall wooden fence which an animal would have to climb to get over, and the trees in my neighbors yard appear perhaps too fragile at the ends which stick over the fence to support an animal of any real weight. As I've said before, the scat *only* appears on the lawn part - never in the flower beds.
You asked about the size of the scat. The next picture, IMG00193.jpg shows relatively fresh scat with a quarter in the picture to demonstrate size. Fresh is a 'relative' term, as it has been freezing most nights, and that changes the appearance of the scat somewhat. As I originally said, when absolutely fresh, they are quite moist, appear a little less elongated perhaps, are unformly brown with a greenish tint, and with no food or other debris particles evident in the feces. The last picture, IMG00195.jpg, also shows scat, a little older than the first picture, with a quarter to demonstrate size. I chose it becaue the scat is less hidden by grass than the previous picture. The one thing I'm not certain of, is this: My backyard is bordered by 4 other backyrads - 2 have the arbor vitae as a 'fence', and thus are porous. The other two face the approx 8' tall fence. (The last side is the back of my house, a non-issue.) Because of access permission, I haven't been able to get into my neighbor's yards and see if there is scat there, also. But looking through the arbor vitae, the view is not really clear, but I don't see any obvious scat on their lawn. The summer before this one, heading into fall, I had animals digging up my flower beds and yard (no harm to the flowers, as I said in a previous email, they appeared to be digging up soil for food - that also happened this summer/early fall, until I put down an animal granular repellent around the entire perimeter of the backyard. (I expect that has been washed out by now.) The point, and the curious thing, is that I asked the neighbor on one side of the arbor vitae whether he had any digging in his yard, and he had none. I will try my best to get access to neighbor's yards and get a better idea whether my yard is the only one these animals are using as a latrine, but from preliminary investigation, it appears that this *might* be the case, which would be puzzling - why my yard and not others? If you have further thoughts/comments at this point, I'd be appreciative. If it is useful to find out whether other yards are experiencing the animal feces problem, I will find a way to get access and see. Thanks for your help, I look forward to your response.

Regards,

James Koretz
jkoretz@gmail.com
(541) 653 8795

Hello Dana,

It's Jim Koretz again. I realized the first picture was not of my backyard, but of some grass. I've attached the picture I originally meant to send. Also, the white 'flecks' you see in the picture of scat are not of the scat itself - I put down some moss control granules, so ignore those white flecks. Also, the 2nd picture of scat appears to be feces that is older than the first picture - so you can see how time starts to deteriorate it. Again, I would look forward to any thoughts you have about what animal(s) is doing this, and what I might do to stop it. I may have mentioned it - it is curious that they never defecate in the flower bed area - *only* on the grass - puzzles me as to why.

James Koretz
jkoretz@gmail.com
(541) 653 8795

Hello Dana,

Jim Koretz for a 3rd time. Sorry to bug you, but I have some useful information I think: My neighbor pointed out that there is a water source much closer to my house than I thought, and he said he believed the animals were nutria, seeking good grass to feed on. If so, the question now becomes - How do I get rid of them? My guess would be that a granular animal repellent surrounding the backyard might work, but of course it washes out with each rain. I'm interested to hear if you have a suggestion about how to keep Nutria out of my yard. Thanks so much.

James Koretz
jkoretz@gmail.com
(541) 653 8795

Hi Jim,
The pictures and additional information is helpful. Nutria are aquatic rodents native to South America and are considered a non-native, invasive species here in Oregon. They multiply rapidly, do alot of damage, and are a species we definitely want to control. See ODFW's information on the species here http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/nutria.asp There's also an extensive (but dated) publication that's more national in scope http://icwdm.org/handbook/rodents/ro_b71.pdf
You can attempt to exclude the nutria from your yard with a low fence that includes a below-ground apron of hardware cloth (metal fabric) or corrugated metal. Nutria are notorious tunnelers, so you have to expect that a nutria might try to go under when it can't go through any fence. Trapping and lethal removal would be the other strategy. If you're unable or unwilling to do the trapping yourself, you can consider contracting with a licensed Wildlife Control Operator http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/license_permits_apps/wildlife_control_operator_contacts.asp It is likely that you'll need to trap repeatedly over the long term: Nutria reproduce at high rates and year-round, so you can expect new nutria to periodically "discover" your yard as a resource. Getting a group of neighbors to collaborate on control would probably be a good idea and might help spread out the costs/efforts entailed in keeping the local nutria population in check.
I hope this information helps!
Dana