Coyote Scat: Uncovering The Coyote’s Bowel Movements

Sharing is caring!

Published on August 30, 2021
Last Updated on May 19, 2024

This article was fact-checked in October 2023 by coyote expert Jonathan Way who runs the website Eastern Coyote Research

Scientifically, coyote poop is called scat. Scat is the general term used in the scientific community to refer to the poop of carnivorous wild animals, including canines, felines, deer, and more. 

Other names for poop include guano for birds and bats, and frass for caterpillars and herbivorous insects. Academics may also refer to the poop of any animal as “feces.”

Studying scat, guano, and frass provides insight into animals’ diets and lifestyles.

What does coyote scat look and smell like, what clues do they offer about coyotes, and what are you supposed to do when you see coyote droppings lying around?

Read on to learn the what, where, how, and more!

Coyote Scat Overview – Characteristics

ShapeTubular and may taper at the end. Thin but long.
SizeAnywhere between 3-12 inches long and 3/4 inches in diameter.
ColorGenerally brown to brownish-black, but may appear blackish or whitish, or even green, depending on coyote diet.
SmellDependent on diet. A high-meat diet will have more pungent smells than a high-vegetation diet.
Usually containsBones, hair, and fur in the winter; seeds, nuts, and berries in the summer.
Other similar scatsDog, wolf, fox, raccoon, bobcat

What Does Coyote Scat Look Like?

Coyote scat is typically long, tubular, and thin (less than one inch in diameter). It may also have tapered ends. Compared to other animals, coyote poop is medium in size. 

It is typically brownish-black but can come in all colors depending on what the coyote has eaten. A coyote’s diet significantly impacts the color, consistency, and overall appearance of their poop.

Generally, the more meat a canine eats, the darker the color of its feces, while greenish colors indicate that a coyote has recently eaten vegetation. Alternatively, if it consumed a lot of bones, its feces may appear very light and almost whitish.

Very dark coyote scat with hair.
Very dark coyote scat with hair. The dark color is indicative of a diet rich in meat.

When analyzing feces, remember that scat also changes color with time. 

Scat begins to lighten within a few days after the coyote has pooped. White poop indicates it is at least a few days old and is in decomposition. 

Scat may also gray or bleach when there is natural bleaching from the sun. No matter the initial color of the coyote scat, bleaching will cause discoloration.

Old white coyote scat with bones in it.

Photo credit: Jonathan Way
Old white coyote scat with bones in it.

Dried-out, bleached coyote scat with tapered ends. Hand for scale.

Photo credit: Jonathan Way
Dried-out, bleached coyote scat with tapered ends. Hand included for scale.

Old, white coyote scat with hair.

Photo credit: Jonathan Way
Old, white coyote scat with hair.

As seen in the photos, another distinguishing feature of coyote scat is that it typically contains bones, fur, hair, seeds, and berries. Coyotes often have different things in their poop, depending on their diet

The stuff you see are the undigested parts of the food that the coyote eats. This is similar to looking at our own human scat a day or two after eating corn on the cob!

The season impacts what appears in a coyote’s poop because of varying food accessibility.

It is common to see fur and bones in scat in the winter when fruit and vegetation are not easily found. However, you will more likely encounter coyote scat with nuts and berries in the summer. 

In general, though, coyotes are at the top (or near the top in some systems with larger carnivores like wolves or cougars) of the food web and mostly eat meat. 

Coyote scat with a lot of hair in it.
Photo credit: Jonathan Way
Coyote scat with plenty of fur.
Coyote scats with remains of deer hide.
Coyote scat with remains of deer hide in it.
Coyote scat with traces of berries.

Photo credit: Jonathan Way
Scat with berries.

Coyote Scat Visual Comparison

Difference from Coyote Scat
DogsTends to be soft and bland-looking (especially pet dogs who eat dog food).
WolfLarger, usually more than one inch in diameter. Coyote scat is also usually smoother and shinier than wolf scat.
RaccoonBlunt tips (not tapered) and only located in latrines.
BobcatTypically more round, sharply segmented, and less “ropey.”
FoxShorter and thinner (approximately only 2 inches long and 1/2 inch in diameter).
Example image of the scats of foxes, coyotes, bobcats, dogs, and wolves.
Photo sources:
Coyote scat photo credit to Jonathan Way
Bobcat scat photo credit to born1945 via Flickr.com
Dog scat photo credit to Doug Beckers via Flickr.com
Wolf scat photo credit to Umberto Vesco via Flickr.com
Fox scat photo credit to gailhampshire via Flickr.com

Coyote droppings can easily be mistaken for the scat of other animals, including dogs, wolves, raccoons, bobcats, and more.

As in the previous section, the distinguishing factors of coyote scat are

  • Less than one inch in diameter.
  • Contains hair, bones, seeds, and more.
  • The scat tapers at the end.
  • Tubular shape.
  • The color of coyote scat varies based on diet.

The trained eye will also identify the textural difference of dog scats, the size difference of wolf and fox scats, and the shape differences of raccoon and bobcat scats compared to coyote scats.

Interestingly, there are some exceptions. Eastern coyotes (found along the North American east coast and westward to Ohio) often produce bigger scat that are easily confused with wolves.  

Here are some scat pics of canids in Maine that are either Eastern coyote or, possibly, wolf:

Scat from either an eastern coyote (coywolf) or wolf. Bigger in size than normal coyote scat.
Photo credit: Jonathan Way
Scat from either an eastern coyote (coywolf) or wolf. Bigger in size than normal coyote scat.
Photo credit: Jonathan Way
Scat from either an eastern coyote (coywolf) or wolf. Bigger in size than normal coyote scat.
Photo credit: Jonathan Way

The three pictures above show scat from either an eastern coyote (coywolf) or wolf. They are bigger in size than coyote scat from other regions.

What Does Coyote Scat Smell Like?

Scats often have different smells depending on the coyote’s diet. A meat-heavy diet usually produces a pungent odor, whereas a more vegetable-filled diet produces a less stinky poop. 

FUN FACT: Coyotes fart just like all canines. Similar to their scat, the smell of their fart is directly related to their diet.

How Do Coyotes Poop And Urinate?

Coyotes poop similar to dogs by squatting and then defecating. However, like in people, the two genders urinate differently.

Adult males use raised-leg urination, while female coyotes use squatting postures. If a female is breeding or is an alpha, it will use “flex-legged urination,” a modified form of the male’s raised-leg. Juveniles will squat until they learn otherwise.

Here are some videos of coyotes urinating:

Video credit: Jonathan Way
A dominant male eastern coyote raised-leg urinating.
Video credit: Jonathan Way
An alpha/female breeding eastern coyote flex-legged urinating.
Video credit: Jonathan Way
Coyote scratching to amplify the scent with the scent glands on the paws.

Where Do Coyotes Poop?

Contrary to common belief, coyotes rarely use latrines or a designated bathroom area. Instead, like most territorial canines, coyotes strategically place their scat and urine to let others know of their presence.

Coyote expert Jonathan Way explains, “They [coyotes] often deposit scat at trail junctions, especially dominant animals within a pack, to increase the chance of other canines finding it, which means that it likely serves some form of territorial function.”

Scat is one way that coyotes maintain the borders of their territory. As other coyotes and large animals pass, the droppings along territory lines mark the coyotes’ ownership and deter them from settling in the area.

Because of this territorial message, it is common to find a canid investigating droppings not out of curiosity but because it is trying to understand who is nearby based on the scat’s scent.

However, not all coyotes are territorial. Researchers have observed “nomadic coyotes”, which are those who do not have a designated territory or pack and simply wander around, hide their scent.

While nomadic coyotes haven’t been closely studied, it is likely that they try to hide their scat by covering it or leaving them in or near water bodies. This allows them to remain unseen and undetected so they can stay safe for the time being. 

Removing Coyote Pup Poop

Coyotes don’t want to advertise their presence at every waking moment. There are certain times when coyotes need to be hidden, such as when they have young, vulnerable pups.

At times like these, adults may eat the scat of pups in their den to hide their scent.

Three coyote pups emerging from a den.
Credit: nature80020 on Flickr

“There’s Coyote Scat In My Yard!”

Being highly adaptable creatures, coyotes can be found anywhere from prairies to cities. And where coyotes can be found, so can their scat.

Coyotes may poop in your backyard or along your fence line to signal ownership over the territory. This happens most commonly if other animals live in your vicinity, such as if you have a pet dog.

Handling Backyard Coyote Scat

Should you find coyote scat in your backyard, it’s best to dispose of it as soon as possible because the scent of their scat can attract other coyotes (their pack-mates) to your yard.

More importantly, coyote scat contains dangerous bacteria, viruses, and pathogens that can make you, your family, and your pets seriously ill. In particular, coyote scat is known to have tapeworms and tapeworm eggs. 

Sometimes, your dog may get infected simply by sniffing the droppings!

Here is a simple guide for handling coyote poop:

  • Before handling coyote scat, protect yourself by wearing thick rubber gloves, a face mask, and closed footwear (such as rubber boots).
  • Remove the excrement with a shovel, bag it, and throw it away.
  • Afterward, disinfect the area with hot water and strong soap or detergent, dispose of your gloves, and wash your hands with hot, soapy water. Also, ensure you wash the clothes you were wearing separately from your regular laundry load.

Authors

    by
  • Bernice Go
    (Author)

    Bernice Go is a violinist and orchestra manager by profession but a writer by hobby. She enjoys writing about various topics, from music to animals to self-development. When she isn’t playing the violin or writing, she loves reading, traveling, playing video games, and savoring a good cup of coffee.

    View all posts
  • Jonathan Way
    (Expert)

    Jon is Floofmania's coyote and coywolf expert. He lends a hand in fact-checking, proofreading and editing our content about coyotes. Jonathan (Jon) Way has a B.S. (UMass Amherst), M.S. (UConn Storrs), and doctorate (Boston College) related to the study of eastern coyotes, also known as coywolves. He is also the author of several books and peer-reviewed studies of which you can read more on his website.

    View all posts

Sharing is caring!