Today, we are going to talk about the study of scat (and no, it’s not the kind performed by your favorite jazz singer).
Scat is another name for animal guano or excreta. How does an individual decide that he or she will make a career out of studying animal droppings (known as Scatology)? In some cases they just fall into it (no pun intended) and in other cases it’s part of their chosen field. Either way, there is valuable information gathered from studying scat.
In the many years I have spent in pest management one thing has been made clear: sometimes the only way to identify a pest problem is by examining the scat left behind. Each critter has its own unique scat and being able to identify it will determine if the prescribed treatment will effectively address the problem. For example, to the untrained eye, the scat of an American Cockroach may be identified as mouse scat since both are about the same size. The treatments for mice and cockroaches are very different, so you can see that if you don’t correctly identify the scat, your treatment may not address the pest issue resulting in an unhappy client.
So what’s the difference between American Cockroach and mouse scat, you ask?
Upon close examination the scat of the American Cockroach has horizontal grooves and is blunt at the ends whereas the mouse scat is smooth with pointed ends.
Here’s another example: bat guano can be easily mistaken for squirrel scat. You can tell the difference by pressing down on one of the droppings then sliding it along the surface. Next shine a flashlight on the slide mark and, if it glitters, it’s bat guano. The glittering is from all the insect parts that bats eat. If it doesn’t glitter, then the scat belongs to a squirrel.
Since many animals are on the hunt for new and improved accommodations, many of you may have unwanted houseguests claim your home as theirs. Bats, rodents, squirrels, raccoons, pigeons and even some insects will leave behind their “scat-tastic” calling cards. Even after they have been removed and excluded from you home, there may still be some unseen hazards. Sometimes a homeowner feels that if the scat is in an area that they are not going to use then there is no need to address it, but that's wrong. Bat guano that has been lying around for years can grow a fungus that releases spores into the air that cause the respiratory illness histoplasmosis. These spores can very easily work their way into your living space. Histoplasmosis has symptoms that include fever and chest pains. If it goes untreated, the disease can cause chronic lung issues similar to tuberculosis and for those with compromised immune systems it can be fatal.
Though scatology may not be as glamorous as, let’s say, astronomy, it still plays a vital role in the protection of human health.