Skunk Droppings Filled With Beetle Parts

2013 October 2

On the morning of September 21, 2012, we found this pile of beetle parts about 20 feet from our front door. It was about the size of a tennis ball.

As it happens, Sandy had seen a skunk sniffing around the yard the previous evening, so we had a pretty good idea of who had left this little gift for us. Skunks are omnivorous, and the nature of their droppings depends a lot on what they had been eating. And this one had evidently found a nice cache of beetles.

The various beetle parts actually came through the skunk’s digestive tract a lot more intact than one might expect. This bit looks like mostly legs.

This is a testimony both to the indigestibility of the chitin that makes up beetle shells, and to the tendency of skunks to bolt their food without chewing thoroughly. Some of the beetle wing covers actually came out intact enough that it might be possible to identify part of what was eaten. This wing cover, for example, is large, has a regular array of dimples, and is slightly iridescent. It looks like it is from a European Ground Beetle.

Even body parts that one might not think were all that durable came through intact, like the head and eye visible in the lower right corner in this next picture.

And I think the iridescent piece in the picture below is part of yet another European Ground Beetle, the pronotum this time.

Looking at this, I keep thinking that a skunk’s digestive tract must be like iron. I mean, look at all those jagged bits. Can you imagine something as pointy and rough as that passing through you? Ouch!

And while we are on the topic of animal droppings, does anyone recognize the animal that left this? I found three of them, all practically identical, at locations about a hundred yards apart along Clover Weevil Road, on November 22, 2012. That’s my foot on the left, included for scale. I’ve got big feet, so this bit of poop is pretty close to six inches long.

We’ve only got a few animals around here big enough to leave such large scat, like bears. Maybe coyotes, raccoons, or possibly badgers, but only if they were particularly big ones. Actually, it is just barely possible that it was a person that left it, although I wouldn’t expect somebody out hunting to have had to go three times on a single stretch of trail. A long shot possibility would be one of the cougars that has recently been confirmed to be around the area. Slightly more likely would be wolves, which are becoming more numerous in the western UP of late. It certainly isn’t from a deer, because they leave little clumps of pellets, and not big logs like that. And these droppings were all laid out straight as if they were extruded close to the ground, and not dropped from straight above.

Given the number of them, I would guess they were from a pack of well-fed coyotes. This was during deer-hunting season, and when somebody field-dresses a deer the entrails are left in a big pile for the scavengers to clean up, so the coyotes were probably eating pretty well right about that time[1].

[1] After Sandy shot her deer last year, she put her game camera out to see what came to clean up the entrails. It turned out to be a continuous stream of coyotes. And by morning, everything was gone. They’d even eaten the stomach contents.

One Response
  1. Ben Bafaloukos permalink
    June 14, 2021

    Hi, I’m working on educational resources for visitors to my organization’s Science Center. One project I’m working on is compiling images of scat from our local wildlife.

    It’s actually quite difficult to find quality pictures of skunk scat, and I’m wondering if you would be willing to let my organization use the first photo in this article.

    I know this article was written nearly 8 years ago, but I hope you still find this message. Feel free to reply in the comments here, or send me an email at


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