Estimates of soil ingestion by wildlife

Journal of Wildlife Management
By: , and 



Many wildlife species ingest soil while feeding, but ingestion rates are known for only a few species. Knowing ingestion rates may be important for studies of environmental contaminants. Wildlife may ingest soil deliberately, or incidentally, when they ingest soil-laden forage or animals that contain soil. We fed white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) diets containing 0-15% soil to relate the dietary soil content to the acid-insoluble ash content of scat collected from the mice. The relation was described by an equation that required estimates of the percent acid-insoluble ash content of the diet, digestibility of the diet, and mineral content of soil. We collected scat from 28 wildlife species by capturing animals, searching appropriate habitats for scat, or removing material from the intestines of animals collected for other purposes. We measured the acid-insoluble ash content of the scat and estimated the soil content of the diets by using the soil-ingestion equation. Soil ingestion estimates should be considered only approximate because they depend on estimated rather than measured digestibility values and because animals collected from local populations at one time of the year may not represent the species as a whole. Sandpipers (Calidris spp.), which probe or peck for invertebrates in mud or shallow water, consumed sediments at a rate of 7-30% of their diets. Nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus, soil = 17% of diet), American woodcock (Scolopax minor, 10%), and raccoon (Procyon lotor, 9%) had high rates of soil ingestion, presumably because they ate soil organisms. Bison (Bison bison, 7%), black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus, 8%), and Canada geese (Branta canadensis, 8%) consumed soil at the highest rates among the herbivores studied, and various browsers studied consumed little soil. Box turtle (Terrapene carolina, 4%), opossum (Didelphis virginiana, 5%), red fox (Vulpes vulpes, 3%), and wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo, 9%) consumed soil at intermediate rates. Ingested soil may be the principal means of exposure to some environmental contaminants or the principal source of certain minerals. Soil-ingestion estimates may be required for risk assessments of wildlife inhabiting contaminated sites and for computing budgets of those nutrients associated mainly with soil.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Estimates of soil ingestion by wildlife
Series title Journal of Wildlife Management
Volume 58
Issue 2
Year Published 1994
Language English
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 375-382
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Journal of Wildlife Management
First page 375
Last page 382