The view from Mount Tabor Park/Craig Medred photo

PORTLAND, Ore. – Anchorage’s mob of fat-tired cyclist ranting about those little bags of dog crap showing up alongside trails all over Alaska’s largest city, take note:

It’s not just an Anchorage thing! It’s a fad!

Bagging your dog’s crap (hopefully it’s only dog crap), then putting it on public display appears to be a thing here in Oregon’s oh-so-trendy largest city, too.

The bags pictured above were on display at one of the entrances to Mt. Tabor Park today. Other bags could be found along some of the trails in the park. None were very far from the nearest trash can given this city has way more public waste containers than Anchorage and thankfully way, way more Porta-A-Potties.

Either the Portland city fathers and mothers know something about the “runners trots” (Oregon’s Steve Prefontaine and Bill Bowerman did play big parts in the national running boom of the 1970s), or somebody understands that street people need to relieve themselves, too.

In a city full of street people, it’s better to have them making their deposits in Port-a-Potties than in the bushes. Now if only the dogs could be trained to use those facilities….


Writing about this crappy issue at Outside Online in 2018, writer Wes Siler confessed to sometimes leaving his dog’s little goodies behind, but it was couched in these terms:

“…On out-and-back hikes (on trails without waste bins) that see me return along the same route, I’m guilty of failing to follow Leave No Trace’s guidelines as I’ll sometimes stash a bag of poop on the way out, for later collection and subsequent disposal. More waste bins would prevent this.”

The keyword there is stash,noun; a secret place where something is hidden or stored.”

Discretion by then, however, appeared to be already leaking out of the bag. Writing that same year in Nature Outside, naturalist Steven Stolper observed that on the trails of San Jose, Calif., “the dog owners just leave their bags of poop on the trail!

“Why go to the trouble of bagging your dog’s poop just to leave the plastic bags sitting on the trail?  I’m no expert in human behavior, but this just seems weird.

“It’s now a common sight in parks that permit dogs.  Bright blue plastic bags line the trails like unsightly guardrails.”

His commentary – headlined “There is No Poop Fairy!” – was tagged humor. How many thought it was funny is unknown.

Leave No Trace

The Leave No Trace for Center for Outdoor Ethics guidelines referenced by Siler says dog excrement should be treated like its human equivalent – “bury it in a six- to eight-inch deep hole, at least 200 feet from a water source.”

Does six to eight inches of snow count?

Whatever the case, Leave No Trace suggests packing out the bag, not leaving it along the trail. Leaving an empty bag would be littering.

Could it be that the dog owners leaving these bags put the crap in there to keep the bags from blowing away thinking that would prevent littering?

Maybe if they could just teach their dogs to crap in the woods like the bears?

This obviously isn’t an acceptable solution everywhere, but should be somewhere. To quote an old cliche: “the solution to pollution is dilution.”

Poop is an eyesore wherever it is visible, but there is some level below which is not an environmental problem.]

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the Superbowl of Alaska, annually paints a trail of dog crap from Wasilla north to Nome. No one has ever suggested an environmental problem though some health issues have been suggested in village checkpoints where children are exposed to concentrations of dog crap.

There are Alaska trails where the volume of dogs is enough that all the crap should be picked up, and others where the traffic is so low that if owners taught Fido to go do his/her business in the bushes or just punted the turds off the trail into the alders, all would be good.

No one goes wandering around in the alders of Alaska, and given time, dog crap will biodegrade.  But the best thing might be to take it home and compost it, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Dog waste compost can be used as a soil additive for revegetation, lawn establishment, and planting beds,” the federal agency says. 

That recommendation came after the USDA studied dog mushing operations in Alaska and concluded “that in Fairbanks and Anchorage alone, an estimated 20 million pounds of dog waste is produced each year.”

That’s a lot of crap. Put in plastic bags and piled up it has the potential to avalanche and kill someone.










7 replies »

  1. Good grief Craig, by chance did you hang around long enough to see if the collector of said ‘crap’ whom left the tidy little bag(s) might have picked them up on their way back through? That is what I do. I always carry those ‘trendy’ poop bags with me at all times as my grand-puppy, Koda the amazing Springer Spaniel, has a propensity for pooping during our walking or running adventures and the availability of ‘poop flinging sticks’ often are lacking. Hence, depending on where we are in our hike or run, rather than having to carry the weight of the ‘trendy’ poop bag, I deposit it somewhere where I will see it on the way back by, picking it up to either toss into bed of my truck or a trash can. I would rather have bagged poop on the side of the trail instead of squished onto bottom of my expensive trail runners! Most of the bags are indeed biodegradable. Despite all of that, your story gave me a hearty laugh 😂😄

  2. “… or just punted the turds off the trail into the alders, all would be good.

    No one goes wandering around in the alders of Alaska, and given time, dog crap will biodegrade.”

    Bushwhacking just increased its degree of difficulty.

  3. How to tell if you are in a blue city: homeless people, defecation, crime and graffiti everywhere. Red cities don’t have these problems to such a great degree. Boise for example is pristine compared to Portland and Anchorage. Crap: it’s not a dog shit problem, it’s a people problem. Crap, literally and figuratively, comes from crap people.

  4. “The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the Superbowl of Alaska, annually paints a trail of dog crap from Wasilla north to Nome.”
    At deposits over 1lb per dog per day, this waste can really add up in neighborhoods where Irod mushers train…I have seen it first hand!
    The Mat Su borough animal control chief told me it is OK if the dog drops the waste, but illegal if the musher drops a bucket of poop in the woods.
    With 60 teams leaving the gate in Willow with 14 dogs a piece…we are seeing 850 lbs of dog waste daily along the Iditarod trail.
    This trail many times follows salmon tributaries and many times these dogs are sick with worms.
    Coyotes, foxes and wolves can ingest this poop and then contaminate themselves.
    Not the best way to preserve the wilderness in AK.

  5. Oh, that isn’t dog doo in those bag in Portland. Seems human excreatment means your city is “trendy and progressive” these days.

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