What animal is pooing all over our garden?
October 12, 2020 5:31 AM   Subscribe

Every single night one (or more) animals use our garden as a public toilet, leaving behind 15-20 identical looking poos. What animal is making our garden a health hazard for the kids?

Even though we both work from home, we never see the offenders - so can only assume they visit at night whilst we're asleep. They only visit our back garden, not our front garden and not our neighbours gardens. We don't have pets and neither do they.

At first we thought it must be cats, however no cat repellent works (we've tried them all, from coffee beans to crystals and right up to the battery powered ultrasonic boxes). A Google search wasn't entirely helpful but I get the impression that cat poo doesn't look like this.

We wondered if it might be foxes, but a Google search was much clearer this time and confirmed that fox poo doesn't look like this.

What animal is using our back garden as a toilet?

(we live in Surrey, England)
posted by mr_silver to Pets & Animals (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by jon1270 at 5:34 AM on October 12, 2020

It doesn't look super similar to any of these poos. I've seen cat poo like this but 15-20 across the garden seems unusual. Are the mystery animals doing anything else? Eating plants, digging holes, etc?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:41 AM on October 12, 2020

Do the 15-20 poos appear every night? Or do they build up gradually? If it's the latter and there's no other evidence of digging, I'd definitely assume it was a cat with digestive issues. They do sometimes to the thing where they attempt to bury their poo in loose dirt, but they will also definitely just poo on your lawn.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:45 AM on October 12, 2020

It's not deer scat unless your deer has a weird diet. Deer scat is typically small dry pellets. It's probably not bird scat as bird scat is typically white.

If it's 15-20 poos nightly, then it's almost certainly a herd or flock of animals.

In the event that you can't ID, automatic wildlife cameras are pretty inexpensive these days.
posted by selfnoise at 5:56 AM on October 12, 2020

Looks like bird poo... Maybe geese?
posted by chasles at 6:01 AM on October 12, 2020 [12 favorites]

I think that's something weasel-like. Plant eaters are usually very solid,pellet-y, this is something that eats meat.
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:04 AM on October 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Looks like geese to me, but they're loud. Doesn't look like deer. There's a Cooperative Extension office in your area; call them.
posted by theora55 at 6:11 AM on October 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Doesn’t look like goose to me. Goose shit is soft but kind of smoothly torpedo-shaped, not bitty like that. Could be raccoon? Raccoon shit is messy sort of that way.
posted by LizardBreath at 6:27 AM on October 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Raccoon scat.
posted by LizardBreath at 6:29 AM on October 12, 2020

I would be surprised if these were from a weasel or other hunting animal because of the large number of droppings and the absence of fur or bones in the scat.

If these appeared near our gardens in Ontario, I would assume a flock of Wild Turkeys left them. Turkeys can have very moist droppings this time of year, when they are eating food with a lot of moisture. Some example photos:


If you don't have Wild Turkeys, are there any other large birds that could be responsible?
posted by mcbaya at 6:35 AM on October 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

Maybe badger?
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 7:07 AM on October 12, 2020

As selfnoise said, wildlife cameras are cheap. I just got a Wyze Outdoor that is wireless for under $40 and it does HD. Super simple to set up. Has motion detection, and great nightvision.
posted by terrapin at 7:19 AM on October 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

A fox with the squits? Try erm "pouring" wee from a person with testosterone around your borders.
posted by runincircles at 7:23 AM on October 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

If it's a fox it will reek. That amount of fox shit will be detectable from a considerable distance.
posted by srednivashtar at 7:33 AM on October 12, 2020

Could be raccoon? Raccoon shit is messy sort of that way.

That was my instinct too, but raccoons don't live in Europe. (Nor do skunks, which was my other thought.) Still, seems like it might be some kind of omnivorous/carnivorous cat-sized animal, which in the UK probably means fox, badger, or stoat. Or, I suppose, cat.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:41 AM on October 12, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great suggestions! To answer some questions:
  • The mystery animals don't seem to do anything else apart from poo on the grass
  • The 15-20 poos appear every night. If you don't clear them up then, after a couple of days, no more poos seem to appear - but of course the garden is littered with them.
  • I don't think raccoons or wild turkeys are common in Surrey, England.
  • We've tried my own pee liberally dosed over the garden. If I put too much on the grass then it grows rather well - but it doesn't affect the volume of poo.
  • The poo doesn't smell. It's permanently wet and so is difficult to remove and ends up smearing over the grass.

posted by mr_silver at 7:48 AM on October 12, 2020

It looks to me like marten poo... are there martens in your area? If that's what they are, you can probably convince them to go elsewhere by installing a ultrasonic repelling device.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:57 AM on October 12, 2020

I think it's fox poo. There's probably a vixen and four or five "teenage" cubs in a den nearby.
posted by essexjan at 8:18 AM on October 12, 2020

The wildlife in the area will depend on the nature of the area... Are you surrounded by farmland, woodland, housing estates or terraced townhouses? Or, I don't know, is there a stately home nearby? - could it be peacocks?

The foxes that visit my garden leave a certain pungency, and also ripped-up rubbish and the occasional very dead woodpigeon. Your visitors seem rather more polite.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 8:50 AM on October 12, 2020

Best answer: If it doesn't smell, are you sure it's not worm casts?
posted by scruss at 9:47 AM on October 12, 2020 [11 favorites]

I am in Surrey too and something did a massive wet one just like that in my front garden the other day too! I’ll be following along with interest. Hope you get an answer!
posted by tinwhiskers at 10:29 AM on October 12, 2020

Best answer: I think scruss has it. Earth worm casts.

That would explain why they are scattered all around as worms are scattered all around. Not a health hazard at all and good for your lawn and garden.
posted by JackFlash at 11:08 AM on October 12, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I also came to say worms! If that's the case, its better to just sweep them away with a cheap broom and leave it to go back into the soil
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:29 AM on October 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Almost certainly worm casts. Autumn through spring is when you'd likely see them in a back garden in the South of England. Here's the RHS on worm casts.

It's not easy to sweep them away this time of year since the soil won't have much opportunity to dry out until April and you'll probably end up just smearing the mud on your lawn. Some people like to collect them to use as a nutrient-rich potting medium.
posted by theory at 11:43 AM on October 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Seconding foxes, I lived in suburban East Surrey a few years ago and once had multiple foxes using the lawn as a toilet. Now I think of it, must have been a newish family as they suddenly appeared almost overnight in the large quantities you're describing, way too much for one animal. It nearly always looked like your picture. I always assumed they had some sort of terrible scavenged-chips-diet. I'd say that is much too formless & loose in texture to be worm castings.
posted by Flora Poste at 11:51 AM on October 12, 2020

It looks like racoon poo to me, and racoons travel around in packs like those that would leave a mess like that. If it's not racoon, it's something similar. Can you get a live trap and see if you can trap one?
posted by summerstorm at 4:11 PM on October 12, 2020

The fact that it doesn't smell pretty much cinches the 'worm casts' theory to me; I've cleaned up every other type of poo mentioned in the thread and they all had at least some aroma.
posted by The otter lady at 5:43 PM on October 12, 2020

I also 100% think it's worm casts. I live in the UK and they are familiar to me from appearing in our own garden on occasion.
posted by dowcrag at 2:26 AM on October 13, 2020

100% not deer (should be blindingly obvious if you've ever seen deer feces even from 50m away), 100% not racoon (also blindingly obvious if you bother to read the question), 95% worm casts.
posted by turkeyphant at 6:43 PM on October 15, 2020

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