What Does Deer Poop Look Like? And How To Spot It In Your Yard?


A Guide to Identifying Signs of These Backyard Visitors

Spotting a deer pooping would be a hard thing to miss. They are large ungulates after all, and hardly discreet in their movements. But unless you know what you are looking for, you might not recognise deer poop on the ground. It doesn’t look like you would expect a deposit from an animal this size to look. Far from it.

Deer poop looks like something you would expect from an animal a fraction of their size, and sometimes the only sign they have been there at all, is the mess they make of everything else in your yard. Particularly any edible vegetables you might be growing!

We take a look at some of the questions around what does deer poop look like? As well as if it can be useful at all and how to spot it.

What Does Deer Poop Look Like?

You would be forgiven for thinking that given the size of a deer, that any deposit of poop would come out in substantial form, and big pieces. However, deer poop looks very much like what you would expect from a goat or a rabbit only on a larger scale.

Deer poop comes out in the form of pellets, usually between the size of around half an inch to an inch with an oval shape. They may deposit several pellets in a pile each time they defecate, and they are usually stuck together in larger clumps or clusters.

The pellets of deer poop are usually smooth, perhaps ‘waxy’ in appearance and may have a shiny, mucus-like coating. They are usually dark in color, though this does change depending on their diet, and how long ago the scat was deposited. Pellets that have been on the ground longer than a few hours or days, will loose their sheen, become dry and sometimes lighter in color.

Diet also determines the shape and consistency of a deer poop. When the diet is full of fresh leaves and foliage pellets are usually firmer and can be distinctly separate. When the diet is less leafy, particularly in the winter months, the pellets are often more squished and clumped firmly together.

Is There A Difference Between Buck And Doe Poop?

Buck and Doe poop is more or less identical. Although bucks are generally larger than does, and as such, their pellets are usually a bit bigger. They do however lay a different volume of pellets, with bucks depositing larger volume than females. Bucks usually deposit piles of scat with between a quarter to a third more pellets than a doe. The buck can deposit over 90 pellets in a single deposit!

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Why Is Deer Poop Like Pellets Rather Than Logs?

The size and shape of deer scat is all down the how how their intestines work to digest and transfer material. The colon of a deer works in an automatic rhythm, opening and closing the sphincter which results in the small pellet shapes.

For animals like canids (foxes, wolves and dogs), cats and humans, the sphincter stays open for a longer time frame, allowing more material and moisture through, resulting in larger stool size.

What Is Deer Poop Called?

Deer poop is usually called scat, but is also known as stool when the pieces are clumped together. Individual pieces are called pellets, due to their oval, bullet like shape, with a divot at one end and a pointy bit at the other end.

What Color Is Deer Poop?

Fresh deer poop is almost always a dark green, brown or almost black. Color will change seasonally and based on diet. In the summer they may have a greenish cast to them if the deer have been eating fresh leaves. In fall and winter when there are less fresh leaves around, the green will usually disappear in exchange for a more brown to black tone.

How Often Do Deer Poop?

Like many large ungulates, deer poop several times a day. Up to around 14 -15 times a day is common for most deer during the winter months. In Spring and Summer with more fresh and moist leafy foliage available, this can increase to almost double, between 20 – 30 times per day!

Where Do Deer Poop?

Deer droppings are typically found along deer trails and near feeding areas. You’ll typically find deer scat on trails between food and bedding areas, or vice versa.

This is why if you live near woodland areas or open forest, you might well find your yard seasonally fill up with deer scat. Like anything, a deer will make the most of an easy meal, and if you have nice plants, vegetables or foliage in your yard, they are not adverse to coming along at night and eating what they can.

Sometimes they can leave a bit of a mess behind, not just by stripping your flowers, but they can also damage tree bark. Sometimes they leave little evidence behind that they were there, other than the pellets of scat that they leave on the ground.

Interestingly, baby deer fawns do not poop near where they sleep. They only have an instinct to poop when they are feeding. As such, a mother deer will usually feed her fawn away from their bedding area to prevent predators from getting a smell of their young.

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How To Spot Deer Poop In Your Garden

Unlike the pellets of smaller animals like rabbits or goats, deer pellets are pointed at one end. Along with their size – which is about 4 times the size of a rabbit pellet – it is this pointy shape at the end of a deer poop pellet that tells you it is from this animal. It is pointed because of the way the deer’s sphincter muscle closes after releasing a pellet.

Deer scat is also much more abundant than the pellets of other garden visitors such as rabbits and hares. While a hare’s pellets may be closer in size to a deer than a rabbits, a pile of deer scat can have anywhere between 50 to 90 pellets depending on the season and the sex of the deer.

They are not very particular about where they lay their scat, but you are likely to find it around any area where they may have been feeding. A pile of inch wide pellets sitting in a vegetable plot or flower bed is a dead giveaway.

How Dirty Is Deer Poop?

Deer are herbivores, eating a wide variety of plants and vegetables. They are fond of leafy plants and vegetables when they are available, and seasonally fond of mushrooms and nuts – particularly acorns – when they are available.

The diet is clean enough, but their scat can contain some nasty bugs and parasites. They can carry some nasty strains of E. coli in their guts so it is advisable when handling deer scat to make sure you use adequate protection, such as gloves. Wash any clothes that have come into contact with scat to prevent contamination too.

Can You Get Sick From Deer Poop?

It’s rare, but yes you can get sick from deer poop. As mentioned above E. Coli is the biggest potential threat to humans, but there are things you can do to prevent this.

There are other threats from deer scat however, that can make any domestic pets you have very sick. Deer scat can contain parasites like coccidia or giardia, and these can be harmful to your dog. It can also contain parasites such as roundworms and whipworms, particularly if it has been laying for a while. If you’re dog was to eat that, it can be quite expensive to treat.

Tracking With Deer Poop

It is common for hunters to both track and manipulate the movement of deer by using their scat in a number of ways.

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By studying deer faeces, trackers can learn to locate where the buck or doe is likely to be. Close examination of quantity of scats, texture, warmth and color of scat in an area can tell a tracker many things. They can determine how regularly the area is visited and by how many deer. If it is a common area or if the deer are just passing through.

The warmer the deer scat is, the more recent it was dropped. If you find deer poop that is still warm, it means that it was probably from the night before a morning hunt or from the afternoon before an evening hunt.

They may also hide their own scent by rubbing the scat on their shoes as not to spook any deer in the area with their own scent.

A tracker can also manipulate deer to approach a place, by spreading around the scat of deer from another area. Curious deer will approach to try to identify the unfamiliar visitor.

Can You Use Deer Poop In Your Garden?

Although deer droppings contain nitrogen and might improve your lawn, you have to be very careful if you plan to use it in a vegetable plot or garden. If you do want to use it you need to compost it first.

The high temperature reached during decomposition will eliminate E. coli bacteria, which can cause disease in humans. Deer waste should be left in a ‘warm’ compost pile (165 Farenheit) for at least 90 days to destroy any E. coli bacteria present.

E. coli is not the only thing you have to worry about with deer scat though. Some deer are also known to have Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). This is caused by tiny infectious particles called Prions. These particles are known to cause a number of degenerative brain diseases including bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) – otherwise known as Mad Cow Disease.

While there is currently no evidence of CWD being passed from deer to humans, the prions that cause the disease are not killed by hot composting and while this may not pose a threat to humans, research suggests it is best to avoid human exposures.

What Can Deer Scat Tell Us?

Deer poop can be an indicator of the health of the deer population in an area. It is also a good indicator of the health of the ecosystem. Identifying deer poop can be helpful for managing the population and preserving the environment.