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October 2020 Natural Mystery Answered

posted Nov 16, 2020, 9:29 AM by Jonathan Poppele   [ updated Nov 16, 2020, 9:39 AM ]
We received a range of answers to our October natural mystery implicating a wide range of animals from birds and mammals to freshwater sponges. Congratulations to our generous Patreon supporter Mike Holtz and one anonymous contributor who successfully identified this common but rarely seen sign.

This is beaver scat. Mike Holtz gets us started with this pithy and useful description:

“Sawdust meatballs! Found in water, contents look like mostly woody fiber, size looks good at around an inch to an inch and a half.”

Our anonymous contributor goes into some additional depth and analysis:

"I notice the pellets appear to contain woodchip pieces. The size matches the range of 1"-1.25" in length for beaver pellets and 0.75" in diameter. The yellow coloring is interesting-- perhaps from the water that they were floating in? Or the type of tree? When I look at photos of fresh beaver chew sign on conifer trees (trees popular in BWCA), I see instances of yellow or red color to the cambium. Perhaps this is retained in the scat. Beaver would be likely inhabitants of the BWCA lake so also a reasonable candidate for scat. Owl pellets have a similar elliptical shape but would contain fur and bones rather than wood. Owl pellet size covers this range, but if they were in water, I'd expect to see the swollen appearance of wet fur."

Beaver usually deposit scat in the water, so we rarely find it even where it is quite abundant. We are most likely to find beaver scat after water levels drop, exposing previously submerged ground. Our tracking club has found beaver scat at Ft Snelling State Park on just four occasions, despite the dense population of beaver there.

Congratulations again to Mike and our anonymous contributor!

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