Officials urge caution after 30 ducks die from harmful algae at Liberty Park pond

Jul 25, 2023, 12:46 PM

SALT LAKE CITY — Parents and pet owners and children should watch out for harmful and potentially deadly algae mats, which led to the deaths of dozens of ducks.

When we hear about harmful algae blooms, many may think of water turning green. While that is a harmful kind of algae we see in Utah, there is another variety of harmful algae that is growing in a number of rivers and reservoirs across the state.

According to Dr. Hannah Bonner, an environmental scientist with the Utah Division of Water Quality, this is the same species of harmful algae with the same potential to produce dangerous toxins.

These harmful algae grow in mats, what Bonner describes as almost a carpet-like texture.

“Anywhere from tan to brown to green in color and often very bubbly. It’s often seen around shorelines, the bottom of lakes or rivers, or even washes up along the shore,” Bonner said.

She said it tends to be very dangerous, especially to dogs, which are often attracted to the scent.

“They’ll actually tend to eat it, which if it is producing toxins, it can be really dangerous,” Bonner said.

Dog owners should keep their four-legged friends near them when around this kind of water.

According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, a report came in saying around 30 ducks had died at Liberty Park Pond somewhere between July 8 and 9.

Signs have been posted and yellow tape was wrapped around Liberty Park’s pond on Tuesday, warning of harmful algae mats.

This dangerous algae is popping up in other places, too.

“Southern Utah, including Zion National Park in the Virgin River, near the Vernal area and in Salt Lake at the Lee Kay Public Shooting Range,” Bonner said.

Bonner said they are seeing the algae in places they have not seen it before. They think a lot of that has to do with the record snowfall and flooding.

“It seems to be thriving in these newly unusually flooded areas,” Bonner said.

Bonner said the main risk is if a human or a pet accidentally gets some of it in their bodies, as in accidentally eating or ingesting any of it. If that happens, she said it is best to call the Utah Poison Control Center, which can help you with what to do next.

You can also visit the DEQ’s website for more information.

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Officials urge caution after 30 ducks die from harmful algae at Liberty Park pond