Wild Windellama

by Paul Alessi

June 2005

Possums or Koala it's all in the poo

Animals come and go as they please but their droppings can remain for months
so knowing a bit about poo can be useful not only for figuring out if
someones stock have got into your paddock but
for also knowing what native animals have been visiting.There is a very good book on
the subject " Tracks, Scats and Other Traces" by Barbara Triggs and there
is a copy in Goulburn Library.
I still don't know why wombats have square poo, maybe it helps them mark
their territory as it does not roll away.

Koala scats ( scat is a technical name for poo) are a similar size to that of Brushtail Possum
but as you can see from the photos there are subtle differences in shape .
Koala scats are either rounded or pointed on the ends and thicker in the middle
(a bit like the Harbour Bridge) and Possum scats are more uniform along the length with
sometimes squared off ends. Brushtail Possums also frequently leave their scats in one neat
heap about one or two metres from the base of the tree.

Fresh Possum scats don't smell good at all but fresh Koala scats smell strongly of Eucalyptus,
if you break a Brushtail Possum scat it is course textured and there will most likely be
stringy bits protruding from the break but Koalas have to digest their diet which is
Eucalyptus leaves more thouroughly and have a scat that is very fine textured.

Ring Tail Possums have small tan colour scats about 10mm long. The best place to look
for scats of arboreal (tree dwelling) animals is in the leaf litter close to a mature tree.
Of course there are other arboreal marsupials such as the many species of gliding possums
and the traces they leave are likewise very individual so knowing all this you can quickly
work out what sort of animals live there or have been visiting.

This is just a small sample from the world of animal poo but the important thing to
remember is you are much more likely to see a scat than the animal that made it.

I can find no record of how each type tastes, any volunteers for some scientific research ?

More on Tigers..

An interesting twist to my story in this column last month about the Tasmanian Tiger
(Thylocene) and the possibility of strange animals in the Shoalhaven Gorge was the report
on radio 2GN the following week of a possible sighting of 4 Queensland Tigers
at Robertson, in one of these incidents a farmers dog was taken. These animals (Thylacoleo)
are believed to have been extinct for thousands of years. Experts who have dismissed the
possibility of them being Queensland Tigers have suggested these animals may be large
exotic cats like the Puma or Cheetah. The Robertson area is linked to the Shoalhaven by
remnant rainforest.

Copyright Paul Alessi 2005