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New Mexico Elk Succumb to Toxic Algae

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Unfortunate circumstances have killed a number of New Mexico elk.

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has determined toxic algae as the cause of more than 100 elk deaths in the northeastern portion of the state, according to a press release.

The dead Cervidae were found back on August 27, 2013, and only now were determined to be deceased due to toxic algae blooms after tissue and water samples were tested. The naturally occurring Anabaena blue-green algae was discovered in the water samples taken from the area. Anabaena is known to produce anatoxin-a, a deadly neurotoxin that can cause death within four to 12 hours when ingested.

It’s a shame to think that those elk could have continued on their path to becoming trophies or parents to future offspring, but instead were victim to a unpredictable and virtually unstoppable strain of algae. At the same time, Anabaena can end up harming humans, pets and livestock should it be ingested. In a way, things could have been much worse.

All the contaminated elk were found within an area less than a square mile, and scientists determined that they likely all died within one 24-hour period.

Still, hunters are being advised not to harvest elk or other game from the area, and are reminded that animals exhibiting unusual behavior or that appear sick should not be hunted. Instead, they should be reported to the proper authorities.

New Mexico’s Game and Fish Department toll-free information line can be reached at (888) 248-6866. Check your local listings for similar information lines in your state.

Photo via Library of Congress, flickr Creative Commons.

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New Mexico Elk Succumb to Toxic Algae