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We Scooped the Poop!

Posted Monday, May 11, 2015

Poo Crew volunteers Jeff Sharat, Sheila Goss, and Jess Russell monitored and promoted pet waste pick up at Kirchner and Wiessner Woods this winter.

Poo Crews Keep the Piles Down

When we put the call out for volunteers to help monitor and promote pet waste pick-up at Kirchner and Wiessner Woods this winter, we weren’t sure what kind of response we would get.  Would anyone really be willing to count piles of dog poop along trails and encourage dog walkers to pick up and pack out their pets’ waste?  We were pleased – and maybe a little surprised – when Sheila Goss, Jeff Sharat, and Jess Russell responded and said that, yes – they’d be happy to help out.

At the end of December, we posted new pet waste bag dispensers at both trailheads and the Poo Crews started recording weekly counts.  After the first week, numbers of piles dropped and stayed low through much of the long, cold, snowy winter.  Our efforts seemed to be working!  Volunteers and visitors reported that the amount of waste on trails did indeed seem to be less than in previous years.
But once the snow started to melt in mid-March, old piles that had been abandoned and hiding under the snow appeared and counts shot up to alarming highs pushing 100.  Could this really be an improvement?  Since this is the first season of monitoring, we aren’t positive.  However, we know that other sites in Stowe and around Vermont have reported collecting much, much more waste during pick-up events (see the results of Stowe’s first Doodie Day event in the following section).  Our guess: most visitors have gotten the message, are respectful and pick up, and a minority doesn’t yet bother. 

We will keep the trailheads stocked with bags and continue to promote pick up through the summer, then do a second season of monitoring in the winter.  Our goal: zero waste on the trails in 2015-16!

Community and Businesses Doo their Duty

Pet waste problems on public trails seem to be catching on as an issue around town.  We were again pleased – and a little surprised – when we heard that a group of local businesses would be sponsoring a fun, town-wide pet waste pick-up event on May 2 as a fundraiser for the North County Animal League: Stowe’s first ever Doodie Day. Nine teams showed up and scooped more than 164 pounds (about 2,450 piles!) of poop from trails around town including the Notch Road, Rec Path, Cotton Brook, Kirchner Woods, Quiet Path, and Cemetery Road.  Funny costumes, raffle prizes, music, food, and drink kept the afternoon fun and light – as if it wasn’t already easy enough to laugh about the oddity of a poop scooping event! 
Although there were a lot of jokes and puns made, the reality is that picking up pet waste really does make an important difference – from Stowe’s paths and waterways, all the way down to Lake Champlain.  So a big thanks to all the volunteers, sponsors, and organizers who made the event happen.  Our hope: Doodie Day will catch on as popular annual event!   

Top 5 Reasons to Scoop that Poop

Living in rural Stowe, you may associate scooping dog poop with urban and suburban areas.  Is it really something that we have to do here?  At popular dog-walking places that may see 20-50+ dog visitors a day who could be leaving behind thousands of pounds of additional animal waste per year in concentrated areas, the answer is “yes.”  Here are the top five reasons to scoop that poop – even in Stowe:

1.       It's the courteous thing to “doo.”  There’s nothing worse than smelling and stepping in dog poop.  We’ve all been there.  Yuck!  

2.       It’s easy.  Once you get in the habit of having a bag with you, picking up and packing out becomes a habit.  Easy as 1-2-3!  

3.       It prevents the spread of diseases to other pets and people.  Infected pet poop can carry the eggs of roundworms and other parasites (like cryptosporidium, giardia, and salmonella) which can linger in soil for years and infect other dogs and people. Young children are particularly at risk. 

4.       It helps keep our lakes and streams clean.  Pet waste carries nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous that feed the growth of weeds and algae in the water. An average size dog dropping produces 3 billion fecal coliform bacteria. Pets are responsible for up to one-third of bacterial pollution in waterways near developed areas. EPA estimates that two or three days' worth of droppings from just 100 dogs contributes enough bacteria to temporarily close a waterbody to swimming and fishing.

 5.       It makes dog owners look good. Dog poop is the number one reason for negative public sentiment against dogs. Every time someone doesn’t pick up after their dog, they are giving one more reason for others to dislike dogs and dog owners.  When you do pick up, it sets a great example for others to follow!

By Kristen Sharpless.  Kristen is an ecologist and Stowe Land Trust’s Conservation Program Manager.  She lives in Stowe.

Do you have a Stewardship Story you’d like to share?  We’d love to hear it!  Contact Kristen at (802)253-7221 or kristen@