Picking up poo after your beloved pet is not the most exciting activity, and even less so during Minnesota’s frigid winter months. It may be tempting to stay bundled on your couch while your dog makes the backyard rounds but it’s important to pick up after your pet throughout the winter and not leave it until the great spring thaw.

It is a common misperception that your dog’s poop is “organic” and will simply decompose into the environment. While not entirely untrue, animal waste is actually a contributing factor to water pollution. When pet waste is left on the ground, rather than being properly disposed of, it is eventually washed into local waterways. Pet waste contains nitrogen and phosphorous which in high levels can deplete oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need to survive and also can promote harmful algal blooms. Pet waste may also contain bacteria and other pathogens that can cause disease.

This winter, you can be a backyard wildlife hero by continuing to pick up after your pet, even when the temperatures sink below zero! Don’t leave your dog’s waste to thaw with the melting snow come springtime. Pick up after your pet and dispose of it properly in the trash. It’s important to note that pet waste is not suitable for home or industrial composting as it can contain disease-causing pathogens that can be passed to humans.

In Minnesota, we are fortunate to have access to thousands of lakes and miles of winding river. But these bodies of water will not continue to provide for us if we don’t take direct action to protect them. By picking up after your pet, whether at home, in your neighborhood, or an area park, you can help keep Minnesota’s waterways clean and healthy for both the wildlife and humans that depend on it.