Forensic Scatology: Preliminary Experimental Study of the Preparation and Potential for Identification of Captive Carnivore Scat


  • Rebecca J. Gilmour M.Sc.,

    1. Department of Anthropology, McMaster University, Chester New Hall Rm 524, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, L8S 4L9.
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  • Mark F. Skinner Ph.D.

    1. Centre for Forensic Research, Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, EDB 9635, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, V2A 1S6. V2A 1S6
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Additional information—reprints not available from author:
Rebecca J. Gilmour, M.Sc.
Department of Anthropology
McMaster University
Chester New Hall Rm 524
1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario, L8S 4L9


Abstract:  Carnivore scats recovered from animal attack and/or scavenging contexts frequently contain forensic evidence such as human bone fragments. Forensic cases with carnivore involvement are increasingly prevalent, necessitating a methodology for the recovery and analysis of scat evidence. This study proposes a method for the safe preparation of carnivore scat, recovery of bone inclusions, and quantification and comparison of scat variables. Fourteen scats (lion, jaguar, lynx, wolf, and coyote) were prepared with sodium-acetate-formalin fixative; analytical variables included carnivore individual, species, body size, and taxonomic family. Scat variables, particularly bone fragment inclusions, were found to vary among carnivore individuals, families, species, and sizes. The methods in this study facilitate safe scat processing, the complete recovery of digested evidence, and the preliminary identification of involved animals. This research demonstrates that scat collected from forensic contexts can yield valuable information concerning both the victim and the carnivore involved.