How Your Dog’s Poop Can Kill a Fish

A dog pooping in a field
Image via STORM Outreach on Flickr

Just because wild animals poop in the woods, that doesn’t mean your pup should.

I know, it sounds very picky: deer, squirrels, birds, coyotes, rabbits and every other animal leaves their poop right where it is, and that doesn’t hurt anything, right? What’s one more stinky log in the woods?

Well, the animals that live in the wild only eat things in the wild – so after their digestive systems process berries, bugs, leaves and small mammals, the waste they send out the other end generally doesn’t introduce new ingredients to the local flora.

However, our dogs (and people, too!) eat food made from ingredients that come from all over the world. They also have bacteria that our local flora and fauna don’t have the ability to fight off. One gram of dog poop can contain over 23 million fecal coliform bacteria!

Leaving your dog’s poop in the woods – or anywhere besides a trash can – has several detrimental impacts on the great outdoors you’re out there trying to enjoy:

It gets into our drinking water: Leave something in the woods and water runoff can take it right to a stream, lake or river – and then into the water we drink.

It makes our aquatic creatures sick: Dog poop adds excess nutrients to the ecosystem that can cause harmful algal blooms, which can have harmful – or even deadly – effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals and birds.

It introduces parasites and bacteria that our wildlife can’t fight: Dog poop can carry whipworms, hookworms, roundworms, parvo, giardia, salmonella, cryptosporidium and campylobacter.

It encourages the growth of invasive species: Do you hate seeing honeysuckle, lesser celandine and garlic mustard in our outdoor spaces? Nutrient-rich dog poop acts as fertilizer for those pesky plants and helps them spread.

There are many other reasons to pick up after yourself – there’s nothing like enjoying a hike in the woods, taking a deep breath of fresh air, and smelling dog poop that you realize is stuck to your shoe! – and it’s pretty easy to do if you’re prepared: Tie a waste bag to your dog’s leash or, if you’re carrying a backpack, reuse a plastic food container so you’ll smell nothing but fresh air even after your dog has done the deed.

Then, of course, take the poop out with you! There are typically trash cans at the trail head in each park.

Our parks – and the wildlife they house – will thank you!

Nikki Ferrell
Social Media Strategist