Mammal Dropping Identification

Identifying mammal droppings in the UK

Mammals are usually extremely difficult to see, often the only signs of their presence are the droppings left. The presence of scat is a major indicator of the animals present

March is a good time to look for mammal faeces; new vegetation is yet to come through and many species are actively defending their territories. Carnivores often use their faeces to mark out their territories, so these are often left in noticeable places.

Identification is often based on smell and/or contents, using small twigs to inspect the remains or using rubber gloves to handle faeces.

Important observations to make when identifying droppings

  • Determine its size
  • Identify its shape, e.g. round or flat
  • What habitat you are surveying, e.g. woodland or upland
  • Are there multiple droppings or one single dropping
  • Identify the contents of the dropping, for example, insect wings, berries or grass

Dropping descriptions

Rabbit and hare

  • Rabbits and hares do not ruminate, and their pellets consist of finely chewed fragments of grasses
  • Rabbit droppings are often in latrines and are small round brown pellets which are generally darker than hares’
  • Hare pellets can be difficult to tell from rabbit; they generally lighter in colour and slightly larger (up to 1cm) and more flattened
  • More often found away from field edges


  • Fox scats can usually be identified by their tapered ends and dense construction
  • Droppings may be in groups or in one single dropping
  • Colouration is usually dark when fresh, fading over time to a pale grey
  • Fresh scats have a really strong musty odour and a slimy appearance
  • Can contain remnants of rabbits, voles or birds, but can also contain berries and seeds, as well as other food leftovers, particularly in urban areas


  • Badgers usually deposit in latrines, which mark the perimeter of their territory
  • Faeces can be very variable, often soft or runny when they have been eating worms, or dry, firm sausage like droppings after eating wheat or fruit
  • Recognisable by a sweet, musky smell

Water vole and rat

  • Water vole droppings are odourless and dark green when fresh; rat droppings smell bad and are more blackish in colour
  • Water voles tend to leave droppings in the same place, creating latrines
  • Water vole droppings are 8mm–12mm long, with rounded tips and are smooth. They are found near water
  • Rat droppings are larger than those of water voles, average 12mm long. They are rough in texture with pointed tips. They are frequently deposited in groups


  • Droppings are up to 8mm in diameter
  • Usually deposited at random but can accumulate at favoured feeding site, such as a bird table
  • Droppings are often brownish or red
  • Squirrel droppings usually have soft, circular tips


  • Tarry black when fresh, turns grey and ash-like with age
  • Spraints dry very quickly, and rapidly break down into a crumbled state
  • Size varies between 3-10cm long
  • Spraints marking their territory are left in prominent places, such as on rocks in rivers or ledges under bridges
  • Usually contain fish-bones and scales or beetle remains


  • Deer ruminate, so their food is finely digested and their pellets are generally black and shiny with no obvious contents
  • Droppings are usually in piles of about 30 separate cylindrical pellets, pointed at one end and indented at the other, but sometimes a single formless lump is produced
  • Hard to tell species apart. Different species produce different sized droppings, of which the sizes overlap. Sizes range from 0.7-2.5cm
  • Often left in small piles on tracks in woods


  • Mostly they are cylindrical in shape and very shiny and black in colour. They can range in length from 1.5-5cm
  • Can contain bits of insect or undigested worms
  • Droppings will often be found on grass close to either a flower border or hedge


  • Bat droppings are dry and crumble away
  • Can vary in length between species e.g. Pipistrelle 0.7-0.9cm and Noctule 1.1-1.5cm
  • Droppings can vary a great deal in colour from a light brown to black depending on what the bat has eaten
  • Droppings can be found stuck to walls or on the ground under holes where bats enter buildings, as well as in piles in roost sites