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Lesson 3 - Scat

While hiking the trails of the Sandia Mountains, we often discover animal (consumer) evidence. In this third video we examine a variety of animal scat samples to learn about our "neighbears" and other mountain friends.

Lesson 3 Video Transcript

Hey boys and girls. Here we are in the Sandia Mountains. Around us, there's a bunch of Piñon pines when we look up. On the ground, there's a bunch of these dead leaves. These are from oak trees. We're in the middle of a whole bunch of them. It's still a little early for them to green up. So most of them don't have their leaves on yet. We're gonna talk about food and bears. So the bears, they're here.

How do we know they're here? Well, we find their evidence. And why are they here? Well, animals are only gonna live some place that they can get food, right? So what is their food? Well, let's talk a little bit about that. Like I said a second ago, there's Piñon trees above us. There's Oak trees around us. Here's the leaves from those Oak trees. Is the same food around all the time for the bears?

No, they have to eat whatever's available. So let's start off in the spring, when bears first start coming around here. In the springtime, there's a lot of new little leafy growth. That's a lot of what they eat. Later on in the spring though, maybe in may, when it starts to get warmer, there's a weird plant called bear corn. Here's an example of some dead bear corn. So bear corn isn't normally brown.

When it's fresh, it's yellow. In fact, it almost looks like a corn cob coming out of the ground. There's a corn part of the name. And then we know, I just said, bears like to eat it, there's a bear part. Bear corn. When they are eating the bear corn, they are Chewing up and swallow these little tiny berries. There's not a lot to see. They're tiny. Even tinier though are the seeds. Super tiny, they just look like little speckles. So if the bear is really chewing up the soft parts of this, is it gonna chew up and grind up, crunch up those seeds? It just swallows 'em. So where do you think we see those seeds later on?

Yeah, we see 'em in their scat. Now moving into the summer, they'll still eat the bear corn a little bit in the summer, but then they might start going after some other berries. Have you ever seen prickly pear cactus? They have those pink berries on them, cactus fruit. They like to eat those. And guess what?

We see in their scat after they've been eating those. Not the soft squishy part of the fruit. That's right, the seeds. We see the seeds of that cactus fruit in there. Moving into the fall. There still might be some cactus fruit around, but then that's when Piñon nuts or Piñones are available. So the pine tree seeds. Here's a bunch of Piñon pine. Pine cones. They're real tiny. And the seeds are in there.

We talked about that before at the very beginning of one of our other lessons. So the seeds are in the pine cones. They'll eat those seeds cause they're abundant. Sometimes though, when a bear is not very careful about when it's eating, it'll just crunch everything up if it sniffs something good. It just chews up an entire pine cone.

Now, when that bear swallows the pine cone bits, these hard little Woody parts, is that gonna digest? No. It'll show up in their poop, right? Or they're scat. How about the Piñon seeds? Well, when we eat a sunflower seed, usually we don't eat the whole thing, right? We might break it open and eat the inside. The inside is what we call the meat of the seed. So that's what gets digested. When bears eat the Piñon seeds, like I said, they crunch the whole thing up, their stomach digests the good part inside. But the shell is like wood. So where does that end up? That's right. It ends up in their scat, and then we can see it. Acorns, the seed from oak trees, they do the same thing.

They'll eat the whole thing, and then the bits of the shell of the acorn, and the little hat on the acorn? Those don't always digest. So we'll see bits of those in there as well. So remember, the only things that we can see in the animal scat, in the bear scat for right now, is the stuff that cannot get digested. So bits of shells, bits of sticks maybe, cause sometimes their big tongue pulls up a stick from the ground, and the seeds that don't get chewed up.

Now, I said that we see those things in their scat, so what do you think I have that I'm gonna show you? Yeah. I have a bunch of preserved, preserved mean saved. It's covered bear scat. This one, this one's cool. Just because it's so big. See how it's kind of shiny. The reason why it's shiny is from the plasticy stuff that we put over it to preserve it. That way I can touch it and it's not yucky. I can see a bunch of little tiny seeds. Here's another one. Also has the seeds in there. Whole bunch of little tiny ones and there's even a stick right here.

So that bear wasn't too careful. It's big bear tongue pulled up the stick along with the other plant that it was trying to eat. Do you remember the plant that I mentioned grows in the springtime and it has real tiny little seeds they're like little speckles? It's kinda like this? Bear corn. That's right. Bear corn. This bear was eating bear corn. We know because we see seeds loaded in this scat. We can also learn something else when we find this. Do you remember the season that I said bear corn grows? That's right. It grows in the Spring. The bear was eating bear corn and it was here in the Spring. All right. How about this one? I see a whole bunch of little round seeds.

There was a tree I mentioned in one of our first lessons in the introduction that had little bluish gray berries. Inside the berry, like with all berries and fruits, there's a seed. We can see the seeds, like I said. They are Juniper seeds. So what was this bear eating? That's right. Juniper berries. Now the Juniper, they're around in the summer and the Fall. Mostly the Fall. So what was the bear eating? The Juniper berries. When was it here? Probably in the Fall. Here's a couple pieces. They're kind of solid lithium. There's a whole bunch of ground up bits of shell in there. Do you remember what kind of bear food I mentioned that has shells? Comes from the pine trees? That's right.

The pine nuts or the Piñones. The type of seed or nut that comes out of the pine cones. Now what season did I say that they are available? Mostly in the Fall. So this bear or bears, they probably aren't from the same bear, was around in the Fall, and it was eating? That's right. Pine nuts. Sometimes bears will eat things that's not really food. What do you think I mean by that? It might smell like food, but it is not food. Did you guess trash? Guess what we have evidence of?

That's right. Bear's eating trash. Here's a piece of bear scat that has bear corn seeds in it. But you see these kind of white things in there? Those are pieces of plastic bag. Just like this. Like we get at the grocery store. Why did it eat it? It probably smelled like food. So one reason that we always make sure to pack out our trash or to make sure that it's thrown away when we're in the forest.

So boys and girls, with the scat, we can learn if you know what it looks like, what kind of animal it comes from, what it's been eating, as well as when it was here, or when the bear was wherever you went hiking. So lots of things to learn when we find an animal scat. And in a minute, we are going to make our own scat. Hey boys and girls. We're here in the lab. So the first thing that we're gonna do is show you some examples of more scat. We saw some bear scat just a minute ago in the forest, but now we have a bunch more animals.

So let's go over here and look at it. All right. So the first scat we're gonna look at right here is Turkey scat. You'll notice that they kinda look different from one another. There's these either curly cues and long ones, or these kind of blobby ones. That tells us that we have male turkeys and female turkeys. Their scat looks different. Turkeys eat mostly bugs and seeds, things that are on the ground, whatever they can find us down low. Next one is pack rats scat. Pack rats are rodents, just like regular rats and mice.

You might have seen mouse poop or rat poop. It looks very much like this. Mouse scat is much smaller. It looks kind of like rice grains, but this is a larger animal. Pack rats are herbivores. They eat seeds and other berries and things like that. So in the pack rat scat, before I move it, if this pack rat ate a seed that had a hard shell around it, if you remember about the bear scat, the inside will digest, but the shell is likely not to. Next. We have rabbit.

You might have seen rabbit scat before as well. That's about the size of peas. And rabbits, like pack rats, are herbivores. They'll eat grasses and leaves, things like that. And in the scat, you might be able to see little pieces of grass. So some parts of the grass like the stalk, just doesn't digest very well. So that's what we're left with Next. A much bigger herbivore. Deer. So say, almost the same size, slightly different color from one to the other. This one's kind of in the middle. When rabbits poop, they basically leave a few little scattered pea-sized poop balls, but the deer has a slightly different shape and they leave the big pile. Again, you might be able to see little bits of grass pieces in there that did not digest. Now, after herbivores, we're gonna move into the omnivores. Coyotes. Coyote scat. This one has fur in it. That's why it has these little kind of points in there. It's like the fur is kind of brought to a point. This one, there's actually a piece of acorn down here so that it looked like it swallowed it whole.

And there's some other things. There might be some other fur in there as well. So again, coyotes are omnivores. They eat pretty much whatever they can find that looks good to them. Animals and plants. Raccoons. Raccoons are omnivores as well. This raccoon was not from around here. This raccoon lived someplace where there is water. We know that for two reasons. One is that's where we found it. But two, these things in here that look like pieces of bone, it's actually from crayfish. Some people call them crawfish. Some people call them crawdads. They look kinda like a little lobster in a way. They live in fresh water. So bits of the shell looks like some leg parts, probably part of the abdomen part, the chest or back or something like that. So raccoons, omnivores eat whatever. So we had herbivores, we had omnivores, were missing the meat eater. The carnivore. We have some Bobcat scat. So Bobcats, smaller than mountain lions.

They have a little short stubby tail. Again, we have this little pointy part, has some fur in there. I can see some other bit to fur, but this is the shape that Bobcat scat will have. I'm gonna show you a few things that you need to gather up first. You don't need exactly the same thing, but some similar things. First of all, you get a couple containers like this. You'll also need, if you use mud, some dirt. So you can go outside someplace with your parent or your adult's permission, scoop up some dirt. And of course, to make mud, not only do you need dirt, but you'll need some water as well.

All right. Now, if you don't use dirt to make mud, you can use oatmeal. The thing with the oatmeal though, you'll have to break it up a little bit, cause it makes it into kind of like a clay if you crunch it up and then let it sit in the water. But I'll explain that later. If you have instant oatmeal, that'll work too. If you have clay, of course, clay would be great or any kind of dough. If you can make some dough out of flour, that will work fine as well. Now, that's the kind of poopy part of the scat.

Remember, some of the scat items that we saw had stuff in it that did not digest. Like maybe grass, especially dead grass. The green grass, that'll probably digest pretty well. But this dead stuff? Not so much. So if you use this, you can break it up. Same thing with little leaf bits and you can crunch up the leaf bits and we'll mix those in there. If there happens to be any pine cones around your house, breaking some of these little bits off and putting it in there. And I doubt you're gonna have deer fur laying around the house, but you might have a hair brush. Maybe you have a cat or dog that you can comb a little bit and get some fur. This is actually deer fur.

But like I said, you probably don't have that. So get some cat, dog fur, maybe some hair from your own brush or comb because sometimes remember, animals will eat other animals and that stuff doesn't digest. All right. So here we are. Here is both some real scat and some scat that we made. So let's just go down the line. We'll start off with this one. Now what this one is. It's like rodents scat.

This is the pack rat scat, and our mud rodents scat, could be mouse. This one. The real deer scat, and here's our mud deer scat. You can see right here, there's little bits of grass that didn't digest. And over here, rabbit scat that made outta mud and oatmeal. And then here's our real rabbit scat. In fact, it looks very similar. If I put that in there, you almost can't even tell the difference. Over here to this side. Remember, these guys were all the herbivores. Over here we have some omnivores. There's a variety of things. Bobcat scat, and there's the fur. And here's our mud Bobcat scat. And we use the deer fur right here and see it sticking out the end like a tail. These could be a variety of things, but they looked pretty close to the coyote scat.

Here's a real piece of coyote scat, the one that had the bit of acorn in there. This one right here has a bit also of acorn and some other things in there as well. They just didn't digest. This one I think is mostly made outta mud. There might be some oatmeal in there. This one also is a mixture of mud and oatmeal. This one, it's all oatmeal. Let's start off by looking at the dirt. So we can see there's some clumps in the dirt. And I just used a spoon here to scoop it up. We don't want all these clumps, so try to break 'em up so it's nice and smooth.

All right. We can see there's already little bits of root in there and stuff. You can keep that in there if you want to, or you can take it out. I think it would work as like possibly hairs or just grass that didn't digest. Here's some mud that I had in progress. Hopefully everybody's played in the mud. This mud right here, it's a little too sticky.

So I'm gonna add some dirt to it. My fingers are all getting clumped up. I'm gonna add some dirt cause we don't want it too sticky. Cause then it just sticks to our hands and it doesn't mold into anything. A little bit more I think. And you really don't need to put very much water in there. That was my mistake is then I poured way too much water into my dirt. So this is getting better. It's getting like mud ball consistency.

Okay. So I'm gonna get this one outta the way. I'm going to Just put this right there. And if you notice, we have this tray, right? And then I also have this thing right here. We gotta use those things, okay? Unless you're outside. If you're outside, then great. If you're inside, you gotta make sure that you don't get the furniture and stuff covered in mud. So let's go ahead and start with the easy things first.

I think we should make some rabbit scat. So here's a real piece of rabbit scat right there. Easiest one. I'm gonna take my scissors. I'm gonna cut up some little bits of grass. Cause remember, rabbits eat grass. Not all the grass digest because sometimes there's just too many fibers in there, and it doesn't get digested by the stomach. So it was kind of shot everywhere. I'm just gonna break off a little, little piece. Now this size, I'm gonna pick it up.

Pick all those little grass pieces up just like this. Like I said, they shot all everywhere. Make my ball. There we go. Got the little pieces in there. So there's our rabbit scat. And when it dries, it's gonna be lighter in color. So there's our rabbit scat. What could we make next? How about some deer scat? It's almost gonna be the same. I'm gonna pull the real piece of deer scat over. Here's the real deer scat. I'm gonna estimate we need, well, maybe not that much, right here. Oh look, we lucked out and there's already some plant stuff in there. And they eat a lot of the same stuff. So let's just go ahead and pick up those little bits of grass. I'm also gonna use some other things.

Here's some other plant. I'm just gonna chop those up. Roll the mud around on those. See? They're in there. There's some off screen over here. I'll get those. We got some more. And it needs to it be this little kind of oval shape. So smooth it up. Take that Off the end. There we go. That's pretty close. There's our deer scat And can mix some full of grownups in your house saying a deer walkthrough. How about an animal that has eaten some meat? So they're not just gonna cut it with a knife and fork, they're gonna bite right into it.

And they're gonna get bites of things that they can't digest Of course there's bones, But the other stuff is? Fur. That's right. So what do you wanna do? Pretend that this is maybe a Bobcat or a mountain lion? It's all stuck to my muddy fingers. There's the real deer fur. And like I said, you guys probably don't have deer fur so you can use some dog first, some cat fur, even some human hair from a brush, but please don't cut any hair off your pet, or your little brother, sister or yourself.

So we're gonna go ahead and just squeeze right in. And remember, let me pull the example over here. Thank you. Who's the real one. See how has that little point right there? That's where like all the hair kind of got twisted together at the very end, pull some more hair over. There we go. That's looking pretty good. All right. Here's our Bobcat scat right there. We got our herbivores. And then a carnivore right there.

What vore is missing? That's right. We're missing an omnivore. So omnivores, they're gonna have all sorts of seeds. I'm gonna pull some seed bits over, and then we will figure out what kind of animal we'll make the scat of. These are bits of, well, this might be able to tell you. that was in an acorn. Here are some Piñon. Here's a couple Juniper berries. That's when they come off the tree. But remember the animal's gonna digest some of that. So this is what I've done here.

So there's the full berry, Here's the Berry skin and soft part, like the fruit of it. There's another one. Here are the seeds that I pulled out. So which one of those three parts is gonna end up in our scat? The whole Berry, The juicy part, and the seeds? Most likely the seeds every once in a while, we'll see some skins of berries, nut let's have these seeds ready to go. Now, if we make a bear scat, you're gonna need a big, giant clump, right? If you have that much mud, great.

If not, you can make like a little mini bear scat, or you can make maybe raccoon scat that's been eating this. Here's our coyote scat that had a mixture of some fur in the acorn in there. Here is a bear scan that had nothing but Piñon shells those bits. If you just wanna make Omnivore scat, and you're not sure about what animal it is. That's fine too. So let's go ahead. I'm gonna get some more mud. It's a tiny bit left here. In fact, what I'll do is add some of this oatmeal that's been sitting there. And before I go on, I'll show you what I did for that. There's the regular oatmeal, crunched it up like this, broke it up and small bits and added some water. And then we waited for a little bit. So let's go ahead and add some of this to our mud. Just so it'll give it some more texture and color. Just squish it together.

I might have to add a little bit more dirt cause it's getting a little sticky. Yes, it's messy, but that's okay. All right. So here's our poop shape. Everybody knows what that is. Let's go ahead and add a few things in there. I'm gonna take and wipe my fingers off first. I'm gonna take some of these Piñon, and smash 'em up. Because the animal will have crunched them up too. So smashing the shell, smashing, oh, look at this. See that little hole right there? There's a bug that probably went in and ate it. Smashed that one, smashed that one, bunch of little shell bits. And we can say that it was going after some Juniper too. Let's just take those shell bits, smashing 'em in there.

And like I did before, just kind of roll the poop over it. I was roll the poop over, there's Juniper berries. There they are, stuck in there. And let's break those little acorn bit. Now, I know not everybody has oak trees around their house. Not everybody has Piñon trees. So what are some other things that you can use that have shells that you might have at home? Could you use sunflower seeds? Possible. Could you use peanuts if they have shells? Yep. You can do that too. Anything that would not digest, all right? Could work in there. So there is our omnivore scat right there. Comparing it to our coyote one right there. Not exactly the same. Here, let's do this. Let's twist it a little bit so we can get some of those cracks. There we go. That's better. Give it some texture right there. I hope you had fun making scat. I did.

We have to remember though, the scat in the ecosystems, where does it come from? Of course the animals. But what are the animals eating to make that scat? That's right. They're eating either plants or other animals. There's words that we use though that mean the same thing as plants and animals when we talk about ecosystems. What are they? We learned it a little while ago. Plants because they make their own food are called producers

They make their own food. The animals, well, they have to eat. They consume their food. They are called, yes, that's right, consumers. Consumers eat consumers. Consumers can also eat producers. The producers however, where are they getting their energy from? The sun. That's right. So all energy for life on earth starts from where? The sun.