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Volunteers needed to collect and analyze coyote poop

by John Rabe | Off-Ramp®

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Coyote C145 walks near a construction site in the Silver Lake neighborhood near downtown Los Angeles late Wednesday evening June 3rd. National Park Service Ecologist Justin Brown tracks coyotes living near downtown Los Angeles late Wednesday night June 3 and early Thursday morning June 4, 2015, in Los Angeles, CA. Some of the coyotes are fitted with radio collars. Stuart Palley for KPCC

If you're coprophobic — afraid of feces — stop reading now. And do NOT listen to the audio. It will seriously disturb you. But if poop's not a problem for you, the National Park Service needs you.

From 1996 to 2004, National Park Service researchers from the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area studied coyotes in the suburban Conejo Valley — Agoura Hills, Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park, etc. — and discovered they ate lots of rabbits (appropriately), mice, backyard fruit, and the rare pet cat. But now, as part of their urban coyote study, they're turning to a much more habitat-fragmented swath of urban LA that runs from Boyle Heights to Beverly Hills, including East L.A., Echo Park, El Sereno, Hollywood, Lincoln Heights, Los Feliz, Mount Washington, and Westlake.

NPS biologist Justin Brown says "there's been a lot of work done in a lot of suburban settings," where coyotes move back and forth from natural areas into urban areas,  but there really hasn't been much work done at all on coyotes that live completely within the urban matrix, in little parks and vacant lots, and places like that."

Brown says researchers need to know how these urban coyotes survive, and so they need to know what the animals eat, which can be determined from the coyotes' scat. "Is it fruit from people's trees, rats, possums, skunks, raccoons, people's cats?" Brown asked.

And that's where you come in.

"We are looking for around 20 volunteers to help collect poop," Brown said, "and then we're looking for another 10 to 20 volunteers to help us analyze what's in the poop."

It's a commitment of a few days a month, for up to two years. "And we're basically looking to collect as many samples as we can get. The more the merrier."  And yes, he really said that.

From the NPS news release on the Coyote Scat Team:

No experience is required, but these citizen scientists must attend a training on Saturday, June 4, to learn proper scat collection procedures, and will perform walking surveys on a monthly basis starting in June. They can also volunteer for the analysis team to help examine scat contents, a 1-3 day commitment per month. A 6-month commitment is required; the project is expected to last a minimum of 2 years. Training and analysis workshops for L.A. teams will be held at the Audubon Center at Debs Park.

If you want to be part of the Coyote Scat Team working the Beverly Hills to Boyle Heights beat, email If you live in the Conejo Valley, they'll be looking for scat analysts there, too, in the future.

And if you want to know how to tell coyote poop from dog poop, listen to the audio!

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