Consumption of feces (coprophagy) may alter findings of dietary studies and population estimates based on fecal analyses, but its magnitude is poorly understood. We investigated seasonal incidence of scat removal on Fort Riley, Kansas, from January through December 2000. We placed feces from captive bobcats (Lynx rufus), captive coyotes (Canis latrans), and free-ranging coyotes randomly on tracking stations in forest and prairie landscapes to determine rates of scat removal by local wildlife. Rates of removal of feces from captive bobcats, captive coyotes, and free-ranging coyotes varied from 7% during spring to 50% during summer. We identified opossums (Didelphis virginiana) as the most common species present at stations where scat removal occurred. Feces may be an important seasonal source of food for opossums and may provide seasonal dietary supplements for other species. Other factors responsible for disturbance of feces included a woodrat (Neotoma floridana) caching coyote feces, removal of captive coyote feces by free-ranging coyotes accompanied by deposition of fresh feces, a bobcat burying a captive bobcat sample and depositing fresh feces, and rain storms. Dietary studies based on fecal analyses could be biased by scat removal, assuming that contents in feces are representative of the proportion of foods consumed.
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Scat removal: A source of bias in feces-related studies