Everybody poops—especially ungulates

Everybody poops, and if you’re walking through an area where ungulates have been, you realize that ungulates poop a lot. Mule deer, white-tailed deer, moose, and elk usually defecate around 12 times a day. Remarkably, one study found that mule deer could poop up to 23 times a day! The frequency, as well as the composition, of poop all depends on the individual animal, the food they are eating, the habitat they live in, and the time of year.

Although most consider poop to be a waste, it can actually teach us a lot about ungulates. For example, we can count the number of piles of poop in area to learn about animal density. We also can use the small bits of DNA found on each fecal pellet to determine the animal’s identification, their sex, and how related they are to other animals. Additionally, because plant particles remain after food has been digested, scientists can analyze poop to figure out what an animal is eating. Thankfully for scientists, if there are ungulates around, there will always be a wealth of information hidden in their poop!

Reference: Neff, D. J. 1968. The pellet-group count technique for big game trend, census, and distribution: a review. The Journal of Wildlife Management 32:597-614.