I had the opportunity to sample fish in a stream with the Wildlife Resources Commission last week. This is something they do on a regular basis to keep tabs on the ecological balance of the surface waters across the state. The quantities and types of species found is important information because the fish present tell a story about the aquatic system. Some fish eat plants or algae, some are predators, but no matter what their adaption, they all fill a niche in the creek.
At first the method used to collect the fish certainly feels strange; sending electrical current into the water to stun the fish, crayfish and salamanders for a few seconds. It seems too easy. They float belly up making it easy to capture every species in the creek. They are netted and then placed in a bucket where they “come to” in a few seconds. This method allows the Resource Biologist to analyze the creeks diversity and rate streams health.
While on the creek, we stopped at a place where it was obvious that all the neighborhood dogs spent a lot of time there. You could tell because of all the piles of dog poop that had been left in the floodplain. It was like walking in a land mine. So I started thinking about all of the dog poop that washes into our streams. YUCK! Know what’s even grosser than that? Swimming in, fishing from, and drinking water that has dog poop in it!
Pet waste left on the ground, especially near streets and sidewalks, gets washed into storm drains and drainage ditches which flow to the local waterway. This water, called runoff, does not get cleaned or treated along the way, so anything that goes into the storm drain or ditch goes into the water. Bacteria, parasites, and viruses found in pet waste can be harmful to water quality and human health.
When you think about how many people own dogs, the pollution can really build up. Don’t worry; nobody has to give up his or her pooch! Pet owners can improve water quality by picking up after their pets and throwing their pet’s waste into a trashcan. Not only is picking up after you pooch the neighborly thing to do, it’s the healthy thing to do… for you and the environment!
I was happy to find fish in the creek with the Wildlife Resource Commission and am glad they take the time to monitor and stock our streams. But it is up to each one of us to take responsibility for our actions to keep our local waterways clean!