Square Poo

18 January, 2009

A Common Wombat (Vombatus ursinus)
A Common Wombat (Vombatus ursinus)
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Minibeast Wildlife

Question: I was at Wilsons Promontory last week and I saw several piles of distinctly cube-shaped poo. There were 4-5 “units” in each pile and each unit was about the size and shape of a large ice cube. Each pile was deposited on a little mound of soil; it was almost as if the depositor had placed them there in the hope that they’d be noticed. What sort of animal does square poo?

Answer: The poo you’ve described comes from a Common Wombat, Vombatus ursinus. There are three species of wombat in Australia and they all have distinctively cube-shaped poo (scats). As the Common Wombat is the only wombat species that occurs in southern Victoria, this must be the species that produced the scats you saw in Wilsons Promontory.

Wombats produce 4-8 of these cube-shaped scats per deposition event and they frequently deposit them on raised surfaces such as piles of dirt, logs or even mushrooms. The height of the deposit is typically about the height of a wombat’s nose. This serves to advertise their presence to other wombats. The fact that the scats are square rather than round means that they are less likely to roll off a raised surface.

When the scats are fresh they have a shiny, mucus-covered surface and a strong, sweet, peaty smell (not unlike the smell of wombats themselves). As they dry, the surface of the scat hardens and develops a dark brown coating. The smell diminishes as time progresses. If you break a dried scat in half, you will find that the centre is very similar to that of Eastern Grey Kangaroo poo: green and fine-textured. Both species feed primarily on grasses so it is not surprising that their scats are similar in composition.

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Image Gallery

Square scats produced by a Common Wombat