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Dog Waste vs Wildlife Waste – Is There a Difference?

This week I noticed several piles of coyote poop in the middle of the road, cleaned raccoon poop off the Landings steps, walked around bird poop on docks and observed several piles of dog poop in common areas.  This got me thinking.  Why are we encouraged to pick up our dog’s poop but it is OK for wildlife poop to remain, is there a difference?  In the early days of the island when there were only a few people and even fewer dogs it was encouraged to toss dog waste into the tree line but now with more people and more dogs is this still OK?  An internet search of why I should pick up my dog’s poop can quickly bring up answers such as 1) common courtesy, 2) protect our watersheds, 3) stop the spread of bacteria, parasites pathogens to other dogs & people and 4) it isn’t natural fertilizer like cow poop.  This list is important information but didn’t directly get to my question.  In natural areas wildlife is doing the same thing as my dog so why should I bother picking it up, isn’t it better to leave it on the ground than to contribute to plastic pollution by putting it into a plastic bag and then into the garbage?  

As it turns out there is a difference between dog and wildlife poop.  The waste left behind by wild animals is beneficial to the ecosystem because those animals consume resources and nutrients from the ecosystem according to Leave No Trace.  For example, raccoons eat Grapes, Yaupon Holly berries and Fiddler Crabs.  The raccoon will eventually recycle the remains of the Grapes and Fiddler Crabs back to the ecosystem creating a closed loop system.  The Yaupon Holly seeds will benefit from the scarification of the seed coat after going through the animal’s digestive system.  Pet dogs typically eat nutrient-dense commercial pet foods which results in poop that is highly acidic and with high quantities of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.  Excess nutrients in the ecosystem can cause imbalances which can promote algae blooms in our waterways or promote favorable conditions for invasive plant growth according to Leave No Trace.  

Armed with this new information to help protect our environment please consider the following points the next time you are out with your dog on Dewees Island (or any other place). 

  • Please pick up your dog’s poop and dispose of properly.
  • If you are without a bag on Dewees Island;
    • please bury the waste 6-8” deep and
    • at least 200’ from a water source and
    • at least 200’ from the helo pad and the helo pad’s monitoring wells.

Thank you for your help!



For more information please visit:

Leave No Trace https://lnt.org/wildlife-poop-versus-dog-poop-explained/

University of Washington School of Marine and Environmental Affairs https://smea.uw.edu/currents/scoop-the-poop-its-your-environmental-doody-pun-intended/