Toxic blue-green algae in lakes and ponds has caused the death of several dogs throughout the United States and Canada in the last month. While these algal blooms are more common in southern states, they also occur in Maine, especially as bodies of water warm in mid-to late-summer.
“The toxins, if they’re concentrated enough, are very potent,” said Scott Williams, executive director of the Lake Stewards of Maine, an organization that monitors Maine’s lakes with more than 1,300 volunteers. “This is a problem that should be taken very seriously, but at the same time, people shouldn’t be pushing the panic button.”
Blue-green algae is a type of photosynthesizing bacteria called cyanobacteria, Williams explained. It exists in all Maine lakes but is harmless in low concentrations.
When the population of this bacteria explodes during an algal bloom it can sometimes produce toxins that, when ingested, can kill dogs in a matter of minutes. It can also poison humans, causing illness and, in rare cases, death.
“It’s something we talk about on a regular basis both as professionals and also with our volunteers,” Williams said. “We do have lakes that experience annual or near annual algae blooms here in Maine.”
Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.
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