Fecal bile acid characteristics have been used to identify scats to species of origin. Fecal bile acids in scats from 20 known black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes), 7 other known small carnivores, and 72 of unknown origin were analyzed to determine if this procedure could be used as a tool to verify ferret presence in an area. Seventeen ferret scats were suitable for analysis and had a mean fecal bile acid index of 156 ± 9. This was significantly different from mean indices for the other carnivores; however, subtantial overlap among confidence intervals occurred for badgers, kit foxes, and especially long-tailed weasels. We conclude this method is not useful for making positive identifications if individual ferret scats and suggest that we may be able to definitively identify individual scats with reasonable confidence by using gas-liquid chromatography.
Johnson, Mark K.; Clark, Tim W.; Schroeder, Max H.; and Richardson, Louise
"Fecal bile acids of black-footed ferrets,"
Great Basin Naturalist Memoirs: Vol. 8
, Article 11.
Available at: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/gbnm/vol8/iss1/11