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DWR warns of water quality issues ahead of duck hunting season

By Ashtyn Asay - | Oct 6, 2022

Evan Cobb, Daily Herald file photo

Jared Rowley looks for a downed duck while hunting at the Harold S. Crane Waterfowl Management Area on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018.

As waterfowl hunting season begins, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is reminding hunters to watch out for harmful algal blooms.

As of Tuesday, 16 of Utah’s water bodies are under warning advisories while Big East Lake, one of the Payson Lakes, is under a danger advisory.

Although harmful algal blooms are commonly associated with warm summer weather, they can persist throughout the fall and winter.

According to the Utah Division of Water Quality, harmful algal blooms form when naturally occurring cyanobacteria in water multiply very quickly to form green or blue-green water, scum, or mats.

“Harmful algal blooms can look like pea soup, spilled paint, grass clippings or water that has a green or blue-green hue,” reads a press release from the UDWR.

Although most algal blooms are not toxic, harmful algal blooms can produce potent cyanotoxins that can affect liver, nerve and skin tissue. They also pose serious health risks to humans, pets and livestock.

The DWR has provided the following safety tips this hunting season for those who suspect a harmful algal bloom may be present:

  • Stay out of the water.
  • Avoid any contact with water or scum.
  • Clean waterfowl and fish well with fresh water.
  • Discard all guts.

Hunters should also keep their dogs away from a body of water if they suspect a harmful algal bloom is present, as exposure can be fatal to pets.

“Dogs can be exposed to toxins by skin contact with water that is contaminated with cyanobacteria or toxins, by swallowing water or by licking the water off their fur or hair,” reads the release. “If you suspect your pet has been exposed to a harmful algal bloom, seek immediate care from your veterinarian. Even with proper veterinary care, most exposures are fatal. Prevention is the best way to protect your pet.”

The Utah Division of Water Quality will stop monitoring for harmful algal blooms for the year on Oct. 31.

“Beginning at the end of the month, some active advisories will be lifted, and signs and website posts will start to come down,” said Ashley Sumner, Utah Department of Environmental Quality communications director, in a press release. “However, it’s essential to know that these blooms can continue in colder weather. People should know what to look for, and when in doubt, keep your pets and hunting dogs out of the water.”

To report a suspected harmful algal bloom, people can call the DWQ at 801-536-4123. More information about harmful algal blooms is available at http://habs.utah.gov.

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