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Algae toxin found where dogs died at Elk Creek.

Byline: Greg Bolt The Register-Guard

ELKTON - State health officials on Friday said they have found evidence of toxic algae at the site along Elk Creek where several dogs recently became ill and died.

Test results don't show that the algae killed the dogs. Further tests on tissue samples sent to labs in Michigan and California must be completed before officials will know if algae is the culprit in those deaths, the state said.

But water samples taken along the creek in Douglas County from its confluence with the Umpqua River to Sawyers Rapids upstream showed the presence of the algae toxin, said Laura Boswell, a spokeswoman for the public health division of the state Department of Human Services.

The highest levels of the toxins were found in stagnant pools next to Elk Creek near the Umpqua River.

Boswell said the algae bloom itself has died off, but toxins from the microscopic organisms remain in the water.

The water samples were taken after the dogs died, and she said it's not known how much toxin might have been present at the time the dogs became ill.

But the amount that remained still exceeded public health standards, prompting the department to advise people to avoid coming in contact with the water in that stretch of Elk Creek.

Tests that could confirm whether the toxin is what killed four dogs over a 10-day span should be complete next week, Boswell said.

But not everyone is convinced the algae toxin is to blame. Brook Fahy of Predator Defense said the dogs' deaths could have been caused by a poison bait sometimes used by land owners trying to kill coyotes.

"It has all the classic earmarks of deliberate poisoning with baits," Fahy said.

Boswell said the state Department of Agriculture was consulted about the possibility of poison bait, but officials there discounted the idea. But Fahy said he's not convinced.

The issue will remain unresolved until the additional tests are complete.
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Title Annotation:City/Region
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 5, 2009
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