Spokesman-Review article. October 13, 2015 Reprinted by permission. Originally published July 28, 2011 The Bellingham Herald
Students and veterinarians in Corvallis, Oregon, have a bright idea for raising awareness of the amount of dog poop pet walkers are leaving around parks and wild areas. They’re painting it orange and leaving it to make a point. They’re on to something. From what I’ve seen around Spokane, in natural areas and Riverside State Park trailheads, the number of people hiking with dogs is mushrooming while the problem of people not picking up after their pets is growing into an epidemic.
Here’s a report on the Oregon project from the Associated Press.
For the last three weeks, it’s been difficult for anyone walking McDonald Forest trails not to notice the countless mounds of dog poop littering the trails and walkways. And it wasn’t just because of the smell; orange poop is kind of hard to miss.
On Saturday, volunteers set about picking up all of the piles of poop that were previously spray painted orange with a construction-grade paint to make the poop stand out. About 20 volunteers picked up around 1,000 piles of poop at Oak Creek, Peavy Arboretum, Lewisburg Saddle and Calloway Creek trail. The orange poop is part of a new public information campaign from the Oregon State University College of Forestry and local veterinarians aimed at bringing awareness to the amount of waste that – in addition to being unsightly and smelly – is causing potential ecological problems.
” We’ve been getting dozens of complaints from people noticing the increas-ing amount of poop on the trails and it’s been getting worse the last couple of years,” said Ryan Brown, recreation and engagement program manager for OSU Research Forests. “We’re all dog lovers and dog owners and walkers of these trails and we know the opportunity to have dogs out here is super important to the community of Corvallis. And 99 percent of them are really careful and clean up after their dogs. But we want people to be aware that this is causing a lot of problems.”
While some community members have argued that dog poop is natural and can act as a fertilizer, local veterinarians and professors with the OSU College of Forestry say the dog poop has caused serious ecological issues along the trails and in the forests themselves. “There are stream ecology studies happening in the waterways along Oak Creek and anything that gets into the water can drastically change the ecology,” Brown said. “That isn’t natural and it can really throw off the health of the streams and cause certain organisms to grow that aren’t natural to the area.” Veterinarian Sharon Forster-Blouin, who owns and runs Corvallis Cat Care, volunteered for the campaign after picking up after her own dog on the trail and hearing arguments that the dog poop was natural. “I had someone say to me while I was picking it up that I was picking up valuable fertilizer the forest needs,” she said. “I said, ‘no, I’m trying to keep you and your dog from getting horrible viruses and keeping it from contaminating the waterway.”‘
Forster-Blouin, who holds a master’s degree in zoology and parasitology, said dog poop can carry dozens of parasites including roundworm, hookworm, tapeworms, whipworms, coccidia, glardia and cryptosporidium. In addition to being a veterinarian and dog owner, Forster-Blouin volunteers to pick up the poop from the Oak Creek trail. She regularly picks up more than 80 pounds of dog poop from the half-mile trail each month.
“It is not natural for there to be this much poop in one small area along our creeks and our forests,” she said. Forster-Blouin is convinced that more people in Corvallis would pick up after their dogs if they were aware of the ecological and public health problems. “The thing that I find to be interesting is that there is no human litter. People in Corvallis are environmentally aware and care about where they live and they don’t litter on these trails,” she said. “But I don’t think they realize that dog stool is litter.” Brown said she’s hopeful that even if people disagree with the environmental and sanitary concerns shared by volunteers, researchers, dog lovers and veterinarians alike, they would pick up after their dogs for another tough-to-miss reason. “It stinks. In the summertime we get a lot of complaints from people who won’t walk these trails anymore because there is so much poop,” she said. “I mean, it’s gross.”