Protect Your Hunting Dogs From Toxic Algae

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During early fall days afield with your four-legged hunting companions, be sure to take added precautions to prevent your dog from accidentally ingesting water containing potentially toxic blue-green algae. You’ll also read about a new useful smartphone app available for Missouri hunters and anglers, and much more!

Algae Alert for Dog Owners
The Nebraska Game and Parks Department reported this week that hunters around Olive Creek State Recreation Area should be aware of a report that a dog swimming in the lake recently has died. The cause of death is unconfirmed, but it is suspected that ingestion of toxic blue-green algae might be the cause of death.

What is commonly known as blue-green algae are actually cyanobacteria, microscopic organisms that are true bacteria. They are present in all lakes, marshes, ponds, and ditches across much of the country, but live unrecognized except for when the right conditions develop and the cyanobacteria grow quickly, creating “blooms” across the water surface that look like paint, thick scum, or “pea soup.” When blooms occur, they can release toxins that can cause illness and even death in many animals ingesting them, including dogs and humans.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources annually warns the state’s thousands of waterfowl and upland bird hunters to be watchful of their canines before the onset of freezing temperatures.

When blooms from cyanobacteria occur, they can release toxins that can cause illness and even death in many animals that ingest them, including dogs and humans.
When blooms from cyanobacteria occur, they can release toxins that can cause illness and even death in many animals that ingest them, including dogs and humans.

“Working together with dogs is part of a long and rich tradition for many waterfowl hunters,” said Kent Van Horn, DNR Migratory Game Bird Ecologist. “Sometimes, care of these furry hunting companions requires extra awareness. While not widespread, potential toxicity from blue-green algae is still a concern for waterfowl hunting dogs.”

Iowa’s Pheasant Population Highest Since 2008
Iowa’s annual August roadside pheasant count recorded the highest number of birds since 2008, with a statewide average of 17.4 birds per 30-mile route.

That’s good news for Iowa’s beleaguered game bird and better news for small town businesses selling gas, food and hunting supplies.

“I thought the western third of the state would do well because it had below average snowfall, but based on the weather model, the rest of the state should have been status quo. Obviously it did much better than that,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and coordinator of the pheasant count. “The weather model is right 80 percent of the time, but not this time.”

The routes are driven at sunrise on gravel roads preferably on mornings with heavy dew and little wind. Surveyors watch for hens moving their broods to the road edges to dry off before starting to look for insects. For purposes of the roadside count, the state is divided into nine climate regions and most regions had numerous routes with really good counts, most often near the best pheasant habitat.

“We most likely had more birds in 2012 and 2013, but they were missed on our roadside counts due to drought conditions not providing an accurate picture. Northeast Iowa is still dry and likely has more birds than the 2.7 birds per route recorded this year,” he said.

Last year, a record low 40,000 hunters pursued pheasants and based on this year’s roadside index, they could harvest more than 250,000 birds. Iowa’s youth pheasant season is October 18-19, and regular pheasant season is October 25-Jan. 10.

New App Aids Missouri Sportsmen
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) now offers hunters, anglers, and trappers a free mobile application for both Android and Apple mobile devices called “MO Hunting.”

MO Hunting enables Missouri hunters, anglers, and trappers to purchase and view annual hunting, fishing and trapping permits and associated details, as well as view permits purchased during the previous year. The app also permits deer and turkey hunters to telecheck their harvests directly from their related permit within the application through an easy-to-use form. MO Hunting also enables hunters to view all deer and turkey, which they have previously telechecked and associated details.

The MO Hunting app is available through Google Play and iTunes stores.

Study May Change Thinking on Didymo
As more streams and waterways across the country have prohibited anglers from wearing felt-soled wading boots to prevent the spread of the slimy invasive algae Didymosphenia (didymo for short), commonly known as “rock snot,” a new study may change how the organism is perceived.

After reviewing records documenting didymo’s presence in rivers around the world, a team of researchers led by Dartmouth professor Brad Taylor found that cells of the algae has been present in the water for centuries — in some cases, even thousands of years — but environmental conditions triggering its blooms had been rare or absent.

“A lot of the response to didymo has been, ‘How can we keep it from spreading?’” Taylor told The Baltimore Sun. “Our work suggests that in a lot of areas … didymo has been there at least 50 years. In some cases, in the case of Pennsylvania, it’s been there thousands of years.”

In addition to restrictions on felt-soled boots, anglers have been instructed to wash their waders with bleach and clean other gear extensively after fishing in water where didymo is present.

Quote of the Week
“A walk in game country is an escape from domestication, a fork in the path between that which brings meaning to life and that which is meant to be in life. We yearn to flee the egg-factory high-rises of the gateless pens that we call cities, to stalk the realms of wildness and shed the mundane in an effort to grab life in its grandest state.”
– Chris Dorsey,
Game Days, 1994

J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. He offers his unique perspective of the outdoors weekly for You may contact him at

(Top photo caption: Be wary of water surfaces that look like paint, thick scum, or “pea soup.”)


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