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caption: Eba getting a close up view of orca in Puget Sound. Orca poop will float for up to 30 minutes. That is how Eba is able to smell it on the surface of the water. 

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Eba getting a close up view of orca in Puget Sound. Orca poop will float for up to 30 minutes. That is how Eba is able to smell it on the surface of the water.
Credit: Courtesy of Deborah Giles. NMFS Research Permit No. 22141

The Power of Poop

I love scat — excrement, feces, poop.

Call it what you will, when you’re a wildlife guy this stuff is a goldmine of information. There’s even a technical term for the study of it — scatology. Out in the wilderness, it’s the best way to track an animal and get a sketch of its movements and diet.

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An orca surfaces near the research vessel while Eba and crew were out collecting fecal samples.
Credit: Courtesy of Deborah Giles. NMFS Research Permit No. 22141

"Scat is the most accessible animal product in nature," said Professor Sam Wasser, director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington. "And because so many products in the body are eliminated through scat, it provides this treasure trove of information about the animal's health, its reproductive status and the other environmental pressures that it's under, and there's really nothing else like it."

But that’s just scratching the surface.

On this episode of THE WILD, I take a look at three different ways biologists are using scat to understand and protect wildlife, including poop parties, a dog on a boat, and an international crime fighter.

We want to give a special thanks to Kate Brooks for letting us use clips from her documentary, The Last Animals.

caption: Anyone who knows me will tell you how much I’m fascinated by scat. Here I am about age 21 with a grizzly bear scat. It was only a matter of time before we did an episode of THE WILD dedicated to the stuff. And there’s more to it than meets the eye. 


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THE WILD is a production of KUOW in Seattle in partnership with Chris Morgan and The UPROAR Fund. It is produced by Matt Martin and edited by Jim Gates. It is hosted, produced and written by Chris Morgan. Fact checking by Apryle Craig. Our theme music is by Michael Parker.

Follow us on Instagram (@thewildpod) for more adventures and behind the scenes action!