Articles, News, and Recent Events

Distinguishing Raccoon from Otter Scat

Published on June 19, 2015 under Articles

Raccoon and river otter scat (feces) can look very similar. Both of these animals spend lots of time near rivers and streams and they can even eat some of the same foods, like crayfish.

In 2005, my wife and I worked as research technicians on a river otter project in Missouri. We kayaked 10-15 miles of rivers, 6 days a week, looking for otter scat (also called spraints). During this time we discovered several characteristics that helped us differentiate otter and raccoon scat.

Raccoon Scat

Fresh Raccoon Scat

Shape:

Tubular and smooth with generally blunt ends. Rarely forms irregular blobs.

Consistency:

Often contains insects, seeds, grains, crayfish, etc. Occasionally, scats will contain 100% crayfish and may look similar to otter scat. Raccoons chew and digest more thoroughly than otters, and crayfish parts are smaller than in otter scats.

Smell:

Grainy.

Location:

Latrines are often found at the bases of large trees near water on the inland side of the tree. Also found on fallen logs, rocks, raised objects, and sometimes on large tree branches.

Notes:

While extremely rare, smelling raccoon can potentially be fatal due to a parasite known as Baylisascaris procyonis

Raccoons frequently form latrines of many scats of multiple ages. Looks for varying scat contents with insects, seeds, nuts, fruit, etc.

Raccoon Scat

A Raccoon Latrine with Old Scats

River Otter Scat

River otter scat

Fresh Otter Scat

Shape:

Irregular shaped cords with tapered or blunt ends; sometimes amorphous blobs.

Consistency:

In the summer, fish is in 14% of scats and crayfish is in 98%. In the winter, many more scats contain fish and the scales will be apparent. Compared to raccoon, otter scat generally has larger pieces of crayfish, such as entire legs and antennae.

Smell:

Musky or like a dead animal.

Location:

Raised areas near water, especially the shortest distance between two water bodies or on peninsulas. Usually on the ground, but occasionally on logs, also at the intersection of two creeks.

Notes:

Otter scats are also called “spraints.”

Otters frequently form large latrines of multiple scats and varying ages. The contents of the scats often consist of crayfish and fish scales.

River otter scat

Old Otter Scat

See my article: Aging Animal Scats: A River Otter Scat Study for more photos of river otter scat.

0 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign Up!
Get News, Updates, and Tracking Tips by Email.
NatureTracking