You’ve been hearing a squeaking sound in the walls, a crunching noise from the attic, or the scuttling of tiny feet whenever you flick on the lights in the basement. So you get a flashlight and work up your nerve to see what has made its way into your home. There is no sign of the culprit itself, of course, but your heart sinks as you see the telltale sign of a pest problem: a fresh pile of poop.
Finding pest droppings in or around your home is never a good sign. The presence of pest feces means some creature has taken up residence around your living area and is making itself at home. The good news about such a discovery is it gives you the ability to potentially identify who, exactly, has been rattling around in your walls or getting into the garbage can in the garage. Knowing what kind of pest you are confronting means much better chances of eliminating them from your property.
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What Can You Find Out From Pest Poop?
The first step to identifying pests by droppings is understanding what kind of insect, rodent, or larger animal you might be up against. There are three general categories of pests who leave poop behind:
- Small to medium sized rodents: mice, rats, squirrels, chipmunks, etc.
- Larger animals: raccoons, possums, skunks, groundhogs, woodchucks, etc.
- Insects: cockroaches, termites, and bed bugs
- Bats: Many different species of bats
- Reptiles: snakes and lizards
Narrowing down what kind of animal is invading your home by identifying what it leaves behind could mean the difference between restoring the creature-free status of your home and making a nest of mice (or a den of snakes or a colony of bats) your new roommates. So before you scoop that poop and toss it, see if you can use it to hone in on the kind of animal you’re trying to eliminate.
A word of caution: all pest poop carries toxins. Extreme care should be used when identifying or cleaning up animal feces of any kind from anywhere, especially in enclosed spaces. Cleaning up particular kinds of dung, like bat guano, always requires safety gear like masks as does addressing any large quantity of feces. These scenarios are risky enough you may want to defer the problem to a professional pest remover. See a cleanup site like Professional Wildlife Removal for more information on how to safely remove droppings from your living area if you decide to undertake the cleanup yourself.
Mouse, Rat, and Squirrel Droppings
One of the most commonly found and identified kinds of pest poop is mouse droppings. Mice leave behind their feces wherever they go and many have come across these small, oblong-shaped pellets in their kitchens, basements, and garages. Mouse poop is dark in color and found in a scattered pattern in places where mice have been lurking or running.
Rat droppings, in contrast, are thicker and sometimes shorter in length than mouse poop. Roof rat excrement is longer and fatter than mouse poop but similar in shape, color, and distribution pattern. Norway rats tend to leave droppings that are a bit shorter but even thicker than mouse and roof rat pellets.
Squirrel feces may be confused for rat poop because it is thick and oblong. Squirrels leave behind pellets that are rounded at the ends, unlike the more pointed poop left by rats, and the color of their dung will lighten with time. This means droppings of this size and shape that retain their dark color over time are likely from rats; if they are becoming white, they are more likely from squirrels.
Chipmunk feces looks quite a bit like mouse feces and also similar to many mouse dropping, chipmunk droppings can be very toxic and dangerous to humans. Chipmunk droppings are usually the same shape as mouse droppings but up to a quarter of an inch larger and chipmunk droppings are usually hardened. Even the air around chipmunk poop can contain spores that can contaminate the area with bacteria or transferable diseases so take care when attempting to clean chipmunk droppings from a home, barn, or shed. You will want to wear protective clothing and glove and a dust mask at a minimum or contact a professional.
Raccoon, Possum, and Skunk Droppings
Hopefully, you have not found feces of this size inside your house, but these pests can be quite a problem if they choose to inhabit your attic, garage, or outbuildings. Because of their size, these animal feces are easier to spot and identify even if found on the ground outside. Remnants of their meals seen in the poop may help you learn more about the habits of your pests and whether they are breaking into your pantry, garden, bird seed, etc.
Raccoons leave piles of dung similar to dog poop. Each piece is fat and may contain visible specks of what the raccoon is eating, like corn or seeds from fruit. Possum excrement is also comparable to dog poop, though it may be more curled than a raccoon’s. It is also more likely to be left in a trail than found in a single pile. Like raccoons, possums should be on your suspect list if you are trying to identify a larger animal living in your attic, under your porch, or in your garage.
Skunks typically make themselves known with the distinctive smell of their spray, but the first sign of a skunk skulking around your property may be its droppings. Skunk poop is close in size to a cat’s but it is shaped differently. Their droppings are somewhat mushy and vary in color depending on what the skunk is currently feeding on. Bits of insects or berries in droppings might indicate a skunk.
Cockroach, Bed Bug, and Termite Droppings
Cockroaches are hard to miss when they have taken up residence in your house. Identifying cockroach poop, however, may be helpful for understanding where they are living in your home and the best location for traps or spray. Cockroach poop is small and granular, looking something like coarsely ground pepper when scattered on the floor. Droppings are sticky enough to cling to walls. Unfortunately, cockroach droppings are fairly toxic when dry and can trigger a number of illnesses in humans from asthma attacks to gastrointestinal problems.
Bed bug poop is even smaller than cockroach feces and is found, most likely, in your bed or other any soft surfaces they are infesting. It is comprised of tiny specks, about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Their leavings are either rust colored or black, made up of dried blood. Sometimes picking out bed bug poop is the confirmation you have these terrible little pests in your living area rather than another biting creature like fleas or spiders.
Termite droppings, also known as frass, have a color matching the wooden they have been chowing down on. Frass is found in piles and each piece is six-sided, making termite poop easy to distinguish from other kinds of dung. You can find out more about identifying insect droppings in particular by looking at pest profiles with a quick Google search.
Bat droppings should be treated with extreme caution because of the diseases and toxins they carry. You don’t even need to touch guano for it to become a health hazard– just breathing the air where bats have taken up residence is enough to make you seriously ill. Most sources recommend using gloves, a HEPA filter mask, and protective clothing for inspecting an area potentially inhabited by bats.
You can tell bat poop from other kinds of pest poop by its look and location. Bat guano tends to pile up beneath the place where bats roost. It is pellet-like but rougher in texture than mouse and rat poop since it contains the exoskeletons of undigested bugs. Each piece of guano is about the size of mouse poop pellets.
Snake and Lizard Droppings
Snake poop is easily misidentified as bird poop. Like bird droppings, snake dung has a wet, mushy appearance when fresh and dries to a chalky white after a time. Location may help you determine if you are looking at snake or bird droppings since snakes have access to many low, closed spaces a bird could not reach. Lizard feces looks something like a cross between rat and bird droppings. Although oblong and dark in color like rat droppings, what lizards leave behind typically has white incorporated in it like bird guano. Lizard droppings are often confused for the poop of other reptile and amphibians, like frogs, so poop alone may not be the best way to know if a lizard is your culprit.
Because they are difficult to identify, you might want to look up pictures of reptile feces online if you suspect something scaly and slithery is hiding in your house. Better yet, call an experienced exterminator who can knowingly and safely look for the invader.
Using Pest Droppings to Your Advantage
Here is a quick rundown of what to look for when identifying pests by their droppings:
- Location. The place where you find droppings can help distinguish between kinds of pests. Under or in your kitchen cabinets? You are probably looking at mouse poop or rat feces. In the bottom rafters of your attic? Most likely bat guano.
- Size and shape. The precise look of droppings can distinguish one animal from another when factors like location are no help. The more you know about your pest problem, like whether a Norway rat or roof rat is living in your walls, the better you can locate and eradicate their population.
- Color. Typically determined by what an animal is eating, the color of pest poop can help you identify a squirrel vs. a rat problem in your attic, for instance.
- Distribution. Even the placement of feces in an area, like whether it is scattered in a line or found in a single pile, can mean the difference between hunting for a possum or a raccoon.
Consider this a first step in ridding yourself of pests. Take advantage of whatever online resources you can. The Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management, for instance, features a detailed droppings identification guide and article on how to control pest populations once you identify them. Don’t hesitate to call a professional if you suspect a pest problem in your home– an experienced exterminator can expertly identify droppings in addition to the other signs invasive creatures leave behind. Hopefully you are a little closer to solving the mystery of which creatures have been living, and pooping, in your house and on your property.