From Alaska to Yellowstone, how about an offbeat quiz?
Everyone has a special calling in life, and here are two people who share a unique fascination for, uh, animal poo.
Alaska Poop Primer: Pellets or Patties?
It’s common for Jessy Coltrane, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s assistant area biologist for Anchorage, to receive phone calls from area residents who describe in great detail the consistency, color and shape of fecal matter they discover on their property.
After all, when you sometimes share the neighborhood with grizzly bears, you learn to pay close attention to, uh, poop.
Coltrane estimates she receives 50 calls a year relating to scat, particularly in the spring when moose waste tends to resemble patties rather than its normal pellet-like state. That’s when callers fear the plop in their yard was deposited by a big brown bear, and not a more common (and less threatening) ungulate.
As a result, the biologist offers callers a few tips to differentiate between bear and moose scat.
While bear scat is generally darker, moose poop can range in color from green to brown to black Coltrane says. She also suggests examining fecal material with a stick. Because moose are ruminants that chew and regurgitate food before chewing again, their feces are uniform in color and consistency.
On the other hand, grass, seeds and berries are often found in bear feces, which can appear fibrous, particularly in the spring, when bears eat a lot of grass.
Coltrane jokes that the public’s perception of pelletized moose droppings is perpetuated by all the moose-nugget novelty items that Alaskan tourists buy.
“It’s those darn swizzle sticks and all those earrings,” she laughs.
If you’re searching for a gift that will give your young outdoorman or outdoorswoman a reason to spend time in the fields and forests, Offbeat Outdoors has a book for you!
Montana author Gary Robson has released his tenth in a series of “Who Pooped in the Park?” books, which are aimed at encouraging youngsters to head outdoors and search the hills and valleys for, uh, wild critter poop. Actually, we think Robson has come up with one great formula for his successful series. His books help youngsters identify wild animal scat and tracks--and each story is based in a different U.S. National Park.
An article in the Fredricksburg (Va.) Free Lance-Star highlights Robson’s most recent edition, which features Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. The book’s characters, Michael and Emily, don’t see many wild animals during their visit to the park, but they find what black bears, bobcats, whitetail deer, wild turkeys and other indigenous species left behind.
When asked by Free Lance-Star writer Kristin Davis about how he came up with his book series concept, Robson replied, “When I was a little boy I was just as fascinated by poop as the next kid.” Well, the explanation works for us.
Robson published his first poop book, set in Yellowstone National Park, three years ago. Since then, he and illustrators Elijah Brady Clark and Robert Rath have used the winning concept to produce nine more books, covering Grand Canyon, Arcadia, Great Smoky Mountains, Glacier, Rocky Mountain and other national parks.