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Help wanted: Volunteers needed to gather L.A. coyotes' scat

Help wanted: Volunteers needed to gather L.A. coyotes' scat
A coyote scampers across the street near downtown Los Angeles. (National Park Service)

Yes, you can volunteer to do your part for science — by wandering around Los Angeles, picking up poop.

The National Park Service is asking members of the public to join a two-year effort to collect the excrement, called scat, left by urban coyotes across the city.

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Parks officials assure prospective volunteers: no experience is required.

The scatological survey will cover the urban zone from Boyle Heights to Beverly Hills. The goal is to assess the coyotes' diets.

"We hear plenty of anecdotal evidence about what coyotes eat, but it's actually never been studied in L.A. before," biologist Justin Brown said. "This study should yield basic ecology information about the urban coyote, which we hope will assist residents and policymakers in making informed decisions on coyote management."

A team of volunteers will walk about 30 locations such as Beverly Hills, Boyle Heights, Echo Park, Hollywood, Westlake and Griffith Park, Brown said.

Volunteers will be trained in how to identify and handle coyote scat, said Zach Behrens, a communications fellow with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

Another team of volunteers will sift through the scat after it is dried and sterilized, working alongside scientists to identify what a coyote had digested, Behrens said.

The time commitment for participating in each team is about one full day per month, with a minimum six-month requirement, Behrens said. Volunteers can join one or both teams, he added.

The Los Angeles effort follows a similar study of Conejo Valley coyotes, conducted between 1996 and 2004. That research showed that those coyotes ate rabbits, pocket gophers, mice and wood rats, along with the occasional domestic cat.

For more information, visit the scat survey's volunteer website.

For breaking news in California, follow @MattHjourno.

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