Vail Daily column: There is no Poop Fairy
Trust Our Land
You’ve heard stories about the Abominable Snowman, Kraken or the Tooth Fairy spotted on the frozen tundra, the oceans and in our homes. The Poop Fairy has now joined the ranks of these mythical legends. Traveling far and wide, flying under the cover of darkness in local parks, neighborhoods and schoolyards, the Poop Fairy is said to follow behind all dogs and their owners picking up what the canines leave behind. The common belief that she exists to serve us has reassured many that cleaning up after one’s dog is optional. Unfortunately, both the number of poop piles and community complaints has grown, leading to two potential theories: Either the Poop Fairy isn’t doing her job well enough or there is no Poop Fairy at all (gasp!).
IT DOESN’T BIODEGRADE AS FAST
Dog waste doesn’t biodegrade in the same way wild animal waste does. We feed our furry friends food that is completely different from the food their wild counterparts eat. Because of this, our dog’s waste biodegrades at a much slower rate than wild animal poop. The large amounts of pets on street sidewalks, suburban neighborhoods, in local parks and open spaces create a serious accumulation and smell problem.
This abundance of feces in our community attracts hungry wildlife to our sidewalks, street crossings and backyards, increasing the chance of negative human-wildlife incidences. Almost everyone has been unlucky enough to get poop on their shoes, or on their pet, which eventually enters their home, car or workplace.
POOP CREATES A HEALTH HAZARD
But this issue isn’t simply an eyesore. Dog poop also contains harmful bacteria and parasites. Our lovely dogs leave behind unsafe and hazardous waste that can make us, wildlife and other pets very sick. Some of these organisms include E. coli, giardia, salmonella, roundworms, hookworms and cryptosporidium. Keeping these bugs out of our bodies and our pets is of the utmost importance. I’ve suffered through two of the above parasites while living in the West, and trust me, you don’t want to experience them. Dog waste doesn’t only impact our bodies, but it can harm our pets as well.
Dog waste pollutes many of the ecosystems we enjoy on a daily basis. While slowly biodegrading, dog poop contaminate sour groundwater, creeks, rivers and entire riparian areas via snowmelt, spring run-off and summer rains. Domesticated dog poop is not part of the natural habitat. Those people and animals who come in contact with these polluted water sources face serious health hazards from these bacteria and parasites. Nobody wants to think, “How much dog poop is in this river?” while fly-fishing at the Eagle River Preserve or splashing down the Colorado River. Poop Fairy, where are you?
PICK UP AFTER YOUR PET
There is no Poop Fairy. We, as community members, are responsible for picking up after our animals. As of 2010, Eagle County requires the cleanup of domestic animal waste from private and public lands and enforces this by fining those who do not abide by this law. To see additional animal control laws for each town, please visit your local municipality’s website or office.
To avoid these fines, bring a bag whenever you walk your dog, always pick up your dog’s poop and throw it away with your trash. There is no Poop Fairy to collect and throw away your bag from the side of any trail in Eagle County.
The Eagle Valley Land Trust has been entrusted to maintain the protections placed on conserved lands forever. As a way to accomplish this goal, the Eagle Valley Land Trust makes sure that the owners of the publicly-accessible properties it stewards provide biodegradable poop bags at the entrances and trailheads to many of our public-access lands for public use.
Just as important, please encourage others to pick up their dog’s waste. If your dog happens to do its duty near an orphaned poop that the mythical fairy has missed, consider scooting over and picking up that orphaned poop too.
THE LAND TRUST CAN HELP
The Eagle Valley Land Trust continues to provide landowners and our entire community with tools and information to steward land in a sustainable manner. The Land Trust offers a Poop Fairy Toolkit and training for landowners, property owners associations and municipalities wishing to address this community issue in a creative way. Please contact the Eagle Valley Land Trust if you would like more information about this toolkit.
By effectively stewarding our community together, we create healthier ecosystems and habitats, multi-use recreational areas and beautiful open spaces. Here at your local land trust, we help ensure that the legend of the Poop Fairy is eradicated and sustain the responsible culture of our amazing community.
Matt Stern is the land stewardship specialist for the Eagle Valley Land Trust. He lives in Vail and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the work done by your local land trust and its stewardship program, call 970-748-7654 or visit http://www.evlt.org.