Health officials have issued a safety advisory for Hebgen Lake just outside Yellowstone National Park after harmful blue-green algal blooms, which is toxic to both humans and animals were detected. Also known as Cyanobacteria, the algae were found last week.
Warmer water temperatures and a lower-than-normal water level is causing more algae growth earlier in the season than in a typical year.
Jackson Hole Radio Veterinary Correspondent Dr. Stephanie Ninnemann explains that the toxin is very fast working and frequently fatal for animals, “What’s really scary about this is that ingestion of the water with the cyanobacteria can result in acute death and sometimes there’s very few clinical signs. So, if you are seeing one of the bacteria that induces liver toxicity – you’re looking for vomiting, diarrhea, GI upset, kind-of weakness, and sometimes you’ll see some pale mucus membranes – and death occurs within 24 hours if it’s this type of toxin,” Ninnemann said.
However, if the toxin is a neurotoxin, death can occur in that animal within only about 30 minutes. Cyanobacterial algae blooms have also been confirmed at Wyoming’s Leazenby Lake near Laramie and are starting to make their appearance in other locations around the region. The blooms can look like pea soup, grass clippings or green latex paint and are typically suspended in the water and can appear as floating mats.