Animal Identification from Owl Pellet




-owl pellet

-white paper

-dissection tools

-exhibit of mammal skulls and skeletons

-Key to: Mammal Skulls Found in Pellets Collected in Western Washington




1. Place a pellet on a sheet of white paper.


2. Using dissecting needles and forceps, separate the bones of the animals from the fur and/or feathers.


3. Clean the bones of debris and sort them according to type (e.g. skulls, vertebrae, etc.).  Clean the skulls as thoroughly as possible since these are the best bones for identifying the prey.


4. Use the two dichotomous keys & the figure sheet to identify prey mammals.


5. Record the kinds and numbers of prey you find in your pellet on your data sheet (attached) and on a chart on the chalkboard.  After the class record is complete, copy the class data onto your record sheet


6. Answer the questions on the data sheet about what is in your owl pellet.


7. Identify some of the larger bones from your pellets by referring to the poster drawing of the skeleton of Microtus.  Compare the Microtus bones from your pellet with homologous bones of another species of mammal found in other owl pellets.  You might also wish to compare bones from the pellets with bones of the human skeleton.

Dichotomous Key 1
Dichotomous Key 2
Figure Sheet