Many of Utah’s general-season waterfowl hunts open on Saturday, Oct. 7, according to the DWR. Hunters across the state will reportedly be getting out on the water in time for migrating geese and ducks.
The DWR said that while these hunters may be prepared with “decoys, dogs and ammunition,” some hunters may not be as prepared to recognize and avoid harmful algal blooms.
While the end of October should see some active advisories lifted, the DWR stated, there were 24 waterbodies in Utah under warning and danger advisories as of Friday, Sept. 29.
Harmful algal blooms form when “naturally occurring cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, multiply to high densities and form visible water discoloration, scum and mats,” a release states. The blooms can reportedly look like pea soup, spilled paint, grass clippings, or water that has a “green or blue-green hue,” the DWR stated.
There are some misconceptions about the blooms, however.
Many believe that harmful algal blooms only occur during hot summer weather, but the DWR said they can persist throughout the fall and winter, continuing to pose a threat to humans and animals alike.
Despite this fact, on Oct. 31, the Utah Division of Water Quality will stop monitoring for harmful algal blooms as temperatures decrease.
“Cyanobacteria can produce several kinds of toxins that can affect liver, nerve and skin tissue. If you suspect a harmful algal bloom in the water, stay out of the water and avoid any contact with water or scum. Be sure to clean waterfowl and fish well with fresh water, and discard all guts,” the release states.
The DWR said hunters should keep their dogs away if they suspect a harmful algal bloom, as the toxins can be fatal in 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,” the release states.
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,” the DWR stated. “Prevention is the best way to protect your pet.”
A map of Utah waterbodies affected by harmful algal blooms can be found here.