Thursday, September 15, 2016
The Los Angeles Urban Coyote Project headed up by the National Park Service has been studying the habits of the Songdogs inhabiting downtown Los Angeles for the past year..........To determine if SoCal Coyotes differ significantly from other urban dwelling Coyotes as it relates to their dietary habits, volunteer citizens have been collecting scat samples from around the city since the beginning of this Summer............."It will take a while for National Park Service to be able to say with confidence what LA’s coyotes are eating"........ August’s (scat) dissection was the first ever"................ "But a similar study of Chicago’s urban coyotes found they mostly ate rodents, road-kill deer and fruit".............. "Pets and garbage were only a sliver of their diet"
When ecologist Justin Brown examines the stomach contents
of a dead coyote, he never knows what he’s going to find.
Coyote C145 walks across Glendale Blvd in Silver Lake near
downtown Los Angeles late Wednesday evening June 3rd.
“I’ve seen barbecue chicken in their stomachs. I’ve seen cat food, guavas, mice, rats, gophers,” he said. “I mean coyotes are omnivores, so they can take advantage of almost anything that’s edible.”
Brown has been studying coyotes for a decade, and for the past year he’s focused exclusively on urban coyotes in Los Angeles as the head of the National Park Service’s Urban Coyote Project. By capturing coyotes, fitting them with radio collars and releasing them again, he’s been able to track their movements. And he has made some surprising observations, like that coyotes can live in densely populated neighborhoods and aren't afraid to dart across freeways.
But one simple question has evaded him so far: what do they do for food?
Knowing what urban coyotes eat may also help avoid conflicts with humans. If they eat a lot of trash, food scraps or even cats and dogs, we can modify our behavior to limit their access to these food source by keeping dogs on leashes, cats indoors and trash secured.
This summer, Brown enlisted dozens of volunteers to scour the city and collect and dissect coyote scat – commonly known as poop.
Coyote C145 walks near a construction site in the Silver Lake
neighborhood near downtown Los Angeles late Wednesday evening June 3rd.
“I’ve actually been completely amazed how many people are interested in doing it,” Brown said of the 24 scat collectors. “I mean you start talking about picking up poop, it’s not something I thought the general public would be interested in, but there’s definitely a subset of the population that is, and we’re very grateful for their help.”
On a Saturday morning at the Audubon Center, about 25 volunteers sat at long tables, armed with tweezers, picks and desk lamps. Binta Wold, an intern on the Urban Coyote Project, shook a clump of dried out coyote scat onto a paper towel. She spent hours disinfecting dozens of scat samples collected by the volunteers (who are different than the people gathered here today). She baked the scat, packed it into panty hose and then ran it through a washing machine.
“So it’s actually pretty clean as far as poop goes,” she assured everyone, laughing.
She encouraged the volunteers to meticulously pick apart the scat.
“Often a tiny little tooth or something that could be really important for identifying what animal is in the scat will get stuck in a clump of fur. So it’s important to pick apart all the clumps,” she said.
A few minutes later, the room was filled with the sounds of people stabbing and pecking at their scat. People the separated out little piles of dirt, insect parts, seeds and bones. Volunteer Hana Yi had a mat of white fur spread in front of her.
“These two look like cat claws to me,” she said, pointing at small white crescents.
It will take a while for National Park Service to be able to say with confidence what LA’s coyotes are eating. The scat collectors only started making their rounds in June, and August’s dissection was the first ever. But a similar study of Chicago’s urban coyotes found they mostly ate rodents, road-kill deer and fruit. Pets and garbage were only a sliver of their diet.
Posted by Rick Meril at 9:35 PM