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It says so right in our Freelancer’s Guide: “We’re not interested in Op-Ed material, fiction, poetry, stories about news conferences or demonstrations, or service journalism about 12 great places to get espresso after midnight.” So a few exceptions that prove the rule aside, it’s always a pleasant surprise when I can actually apply something we’ve written about to my daily life.

Take shit, for example. Just the other day, my wife called me with puzzling news: What appeared to be cat droppings were all over our backyard, which is enclosed by tall fences and presumably cat-proof. We kicked around a few theories. Then I remembered something that made me hit the archives.

I asked the missus whether the poop contained seeds, uneaten berries, or grubs. Why yes, she said. Thank you Sarah Godfrey, for identifying that we probably have a visiting raccoon (though possum can’t be ruled out).

A photo of the offending feces follows the jump.

From Godfrey’s 1/27/06 piece:

Raccoon feces are similar to what one might find in a household cat’s litter box, but they’re a little bigger. The one thing that might help the untrained eye distinguish between raccoon droppings and cat droppings is contents. In raccoon scat, Smelgus says, “you’ll find seeds, uneaten berries, grubs—the majority of time, seeds. In D.C., [raccoons] are raiding people’s bird feeders.…With cats, you wouldn’t see berries, seeds—they mostly eat meat, cat food.”

The droppings of an opossum, the experts agree, are almost indistinguishable from those of a raccoon. “[With] both the raccoon and possum—it has a lot to do with the diet. Both are carnivores, somewhat scavengers—they eat very similar diets,” says Adcock. Smelgus says opossum droppings are slightly smaller than raccoon waste; the chunks are about index-finger-sized. Hurley says, when in doubt, assume raccoon. “Possum—that’s something you don’t see very much, not in the yard,” he says.