Want the scoop on pet poop? Though it may be tedious to pick up after our household friends, their waste is harmful to river and lake ecosystems. A recent study by the University of Minnesota reported that pet droppings from urban areas are responsible for up to 76% of the total phosphorus in our watersheds which leads to impaired streams and rivers.

You may consider pet waste as fertilizer for your lawn, but the high protein diet of our household friends leaves only dead patches on our yards. A winter’s worth of dog doo can wash directly into our watershed rapidly when spring temperatures melt away snow, bypassing waste treatment plants.  Sudden loading of phosphorus, E. coli bacteria, and parasites causes harmful algae blooms and makes the water unsafe for swimming and drinking, while harming aquatic life during critical spring washout and summer rain events.  Due to smart management, phosphorous levels have already decreased by 88% since 2000 in the Twin Cities region of the Mississippi River, but large sections of the Mississippi are still outside of safe levels1. So be sure to pick up pet waste quickly and dispose of it in the trash, a 12 inch deep hole, or flush it down the toilet to help contribute to healthy waterways!

The Minnesota Zoo is also doing its part to help keep our rivers happy.  We are growing mussels for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to release in local rivers to repopulate nature’s natural water filters. Over the course of a day, freshwater mussels clean gallons of water removing harmful algae, E. coli bacteria, and organic nutrients. In addition to improving river conditions, they provide habitat for fish and other animals. These balanced ecosystems are already in danger from invasive species like zebra mussels.  Overloading water with extra nutrients can be toxic and deadly to native mussels. Help keep their homes healthy so they can clean our rivers!