(Tunkwa Lake Resort)

Toxic algae near Kamloops, possibly linked to cattle deaths, sick dogs

The B.C. Environment Ministry website says the bacteria can cause skin rashes to stomach cramps

Visitors to a popular recreational lake in British Columbia’s southern Interior want better warnings about a potentially dangerous strain of algae suspected to be growing in the water.

Kamloops resident Anita Ashton says she and her family visited Tunkwa Lake, west of Kamloops, over the Labour Day weekend but the trip was interrupted when their dog Rufuss suddenly collapsed.

Ashton says the vet determined Rufuss would pull through but had likely consumed something that contained blue-green algae, an organism that produces cyanobacteria.

The B.C. Environment Ministry website says the bacteria can cause everything from skin rashes to stomach cramps and fever in humans, but it can be lethal to dogs, other animals such as cattle and even wildlife.

BC Parks posted a notice online Wednesday, warning it was testing for the possible outbreak of the algae in waters near the lagoon in the southwest corner of the popular recreational lake.

Ashton says there was no signage at the beach where her children were playing and where the dog is believed to have lapped up the potentially contaminated water and she wants BC Parks to do a much better job in future.

“I’ve just spoken with another vet in town who had another dog with the exact same case who barely made it as well,” she says.

She described how Rufuss suffered several seizures and was lifeless and foaming at the mouth as the family rushed him for care.

BC Cattlemen’s Association general manager Kevin Boon confirmed three cattle have died this summer since drinking water from the lake.

The bacteria thrive in phosphorus-laden waters with a high concentration of fertilizers, agricultural runoff or sewage, and Boon says blue-green algae is well known in Tunkwa Lake where ranchers have now blocked their cattle from reaching the water.

“This is something we see almost on an annual basis where we can see some sick cattle from it. It usually happens when we see these hot summer days,” he says.

Blue-green algae blooms were also reported this summer in lakes on Vancouver Island.

The Capital Regional District says there have been repeated outbreaks at Elk and Beaver lakes near Victoria and blooms were reported in several other lakes around southern Vancouver Island in 2016. (CFJC, CHNL)

The Canadian Press

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