OUTDOORS + RECREATION

Deaths of around 30 ducks in Liberty Park pond prompt reminders about safety around algae

Jul 25, 2023, 4:00 PM | Updated: 4:31 pm

duck in pond -- harmful algae possibly to blame for 30 duck deaths...

A duck swims in the pond at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY— The Division of Wildlife Resources said around 30 wild ducks were found dead at the Liberty Park pond a couple of weeks ago, and they have their suspicions as to why: harmful algae.

In a statement, DWR officials said, “Our DWR state wildlife veterinarian suspects botulism or some other toxin was the  possible cause of death, but additional test results are still pending.”

The statement further clarified that DWR and officials with the Department of Environmental Quality “collected samples of algal material growing on the south shoreline, where the pond had overflowed and then receded.”

The DWR said it did find one type of harmful algae, cyanobacteria, “and a small amount of a hepatotoxin was detected in the algal mat sample,” the statement read.

At least one warning sign was later posted by the pond, warning people to not touch algae and to keep their kids and pets from touching or eating it.

How to stay safe around harmful algae

Dr. Hannah Bonner, an environmental scientist with the Utah Division of Water Quality, told KSL NewsRadio algal blooms are more common as temperatures rise. While the cold spring runoff kept them at bay for a time, the heat wave is only helping them grow now.

Bonner went on to say algal blooms can cause serious health problems for humans and especially dogs.

Dogs are actually attracted to the smell of algae, leading them to find it and eat it. They can also accidentally swallow it while playing in the water, as can humans.

Bonner said dogs can suffer diarrhea, vomiting and in severe cases, seizures or paralysis if they ingest harmful algae.

Humans can also suffer diarrhea and vomiting, as well as skin irritation and sometimes permanent organ damage, according to Bonner.

“I think it’s good to know that [algal blooms] are not a joke,” Bonner said.

While it might be inconvenient, Bonner said the best thing people can do to avoid these health complications is to keep dogs leashed up and to check for any weird texture or discoloration in the water. If the water looks off, it might be best to try and beat the heat elsewhere.

“The key part of…safe recreation is being able to recognize a harmful algal bloom,” Bonner said. “Check before you or your pets enter the water, and…make a safe decision.”

Anyone concerned about algal blooms can check the DEQ’s website for educational resources and to see current algae conditions across the state.

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Deaths of around 30 ducks in Liberty Park pond prompt reminders about safety around algae