Jodi Libey has had enough of neglectful pet owners.

Even before snow began to melt, the sheer volume of dog feces she encountered while walking her dog, Jasper, at Duluth's Hartley Park had made an impression on her. She recalled a 20-minute stroll in February, where she counted 62 piles.

"So, that's one piece of poop every 32 seconds," Libey said.

The situation was so bad that Libey decided to do something about it, filling a 3-gallon bucket with stray droppings from Hartley Park last week.

Libey posted about her concerns on social media and found that many other park users share her growing concern.

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"It's really a problem at all the parks.," she said. "Someone remarked that we really should call Chester Bowl 'Chester Toilet Bowl' because it's so full of feces."

Jodi Libey returns to Hartley Nature Center after picking up dog poop from along some of the park’s trails Wednesday. At the start of the trail a station reminds dog owners to pick up after their pets and provides free poop bags. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
Jodi Libey returns to Hartley Nature Center after picking up dog poop from along some of the park’s trails Wednesday. At the start of the trail a station reminds dog owners to pick up after their pets and provides free poop bags. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Todd Carlson, programs coordinator for Duluth's engineering department, said the city has sought to encourage dog owners to be more conscientious about picking up after their pets via a whimsical campaign it launched last year, with signs and a public service announcement proclaiming: "There is no 'poop fairy.'"

The idea wasn't original. Virginia Beach, Virginia first hatched the idea to debunk the notion of a magical being that might whisk away dog doo in the early 2000s. But the clever campaign caught on, finding a home in several other cities, including Des Moines, Iowa; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Corpus Christi, Texas; and Boulder, Colorado.

"I think initially when the 'poop fairy' campaign was launched, it got a lot of traction and a lot of attention. So, I believe we did see a reduction in the number of poop piles that were left behind," Carlson said.

But he acknowledged that many people have returned to poor habits during the winter.

"We got early snow. So, for those people who were walking in the parks, it made it a lot easier when their dog poops in the snow, it just kind of gets covered up. Like with everything, people start to forget, they get lazy, and then we had so much snow early on in the winter," Carlson said.

He said the city will need to renew its efforts to build awareness.

"All pet owners really need to be responsible and clean up after your pet," Carlson said. "If a dog pooped on their floor in the living room, I think they'd clean it up. But it seems like when you get outside and no one's looking at you, it's much easier to just walk away. I would hope we can change that behavior."

A frustrated Libey said it should be pretty basic knowledge.

A trail-side sign near Hartley Nature Center reminds people to pick up after their dogs. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
A trail-side sign near Hartley Nature Center reminds people to pick up after their dogs. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

"Leaving your poop behind and not picking it up is not an OK thing. So, how do we get word out to educate people about not doing it and to shame them so that they won't do it?" she said.

Carlson noted that dog feces often carry bacteria and parasites that can get into the water, where they could come in contact with people.

He noted that the quantity of waste produced by local dogs is far greater than what wildlife, including wolves, coyotes and fox leave behind.

Carlson explained that dog droppings are also different.

"The food we feed our dogs is a processed product. It's not the same content as what a wolf is eating and then defecating out," he said. "So, it's nowhere near the same in appearance or texture or content. So it doesn't disintegrate or degrade as quickly as wolf scat would do."

Libey said Jasper, her 1 1/2-year-old miniature goldendoodle, has been sickened by dog droppings he has encountered on walks. That's largely what has motivated her to pick up other dogs' feces to create at least a small, safe place to walk him, even if that means temporarily becoming a de facto "poop fairy" on a small scale herself.