Immediate closure of Pass Lake: Danger for toxic blue green algae exposure at Pass Lake, Deception Pass State Park

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August 17, 2021

Users of Deception Pass State Park should be aware that Pass Lake in the Skagit County portion of the park is closed until further notice due to high Anatoxin-a levels. Water samples tested this week detected concentrations of Anatoxin-a in exceedance of the state recreational guidelines.

The preliminary result from the King County Environmental Lab is 2,576 micrograms per liter of anatoxin-a present in the water sample taken from Pass Lake. According to the Washington State Department of Health, the level of public health concern for anatoxin-a is 1 microgram per liter. 

Anatoxin-a is an acute neurotoxin that can be harmful to humans and animals. Even short-term exposure is a concern. Signs of Neurotoxin Poisoning appear within 15-20 minutes of ingestion, and may include:

  • In people: numbness of the lips, tingling in fingers and toes, and dizziness.
  • In animals: weakness, staggering, difficulty breathing, convulsions, and death.

Until further testing confirms the toxin levels are back within state recreational guidelines, red “Danger” signs will be posted at the lake advising individuals to keep out of the lake, do not swim, drink lake water, fish, recreate, or allow pets or animals to access the lake.

The toxicity of each bloom can vary and is difficult to predict. Toxicity can change from one day to the next. It isn’t possible to determine how dangerous a bloom is to people and animals by looking at it. Only testing can tell if it is dangerous. Pass Lake will be continuously monitored until the levels drop below recommended guidelines.

The public is encouraged to take the following precautions when choosing a body of water for recreation:

  • Look for signs of toxic algae blooms and pay attention to signage. When in doubt, stay out!
  • Do not swim in, and limit exposure to water that is under a health advisory or is listed as having a toxic algae bloom on the Washington State Department of Ecology toxic algae tracking site.
  • Contact a healthcare provider immediately if you become ill or have symptoms after a suspected exposure to algae bloom.

For questions concerning cyanobacteria blooms within Skagit County lakes, please e-mail Samantha Russell at or visit the Washington State Department of Health website for Blue-Green Algae. Testing results for Washington Lakes are posted at Washington State Toxic Algae.

Separation Anxiety : Start now to prepare your dog for your return to work.

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While we struggle with COVID-19 and the often intense hardship and anxiety it brings, some dogs feel like they’ve hit the jackpot. Due to physical distancing, their owners are home all day! That means more attention and tons of petting, a few more treats, maybe the added bonus of more walks when owners step out for a bit of fresh air. But your constant availability to your pet might be setting the stage for future struggles. It’s unclear when we will be able to go back to work or school. But when that day gladly comes, we will spend much less time at home, and lots of dogs are going to plunge into some degree of separation anxiety. So it’s best to start preparing now.

You’ve heard of separation anxiety. But what exactly is it? Dogs are highly social beings. When some are left at home alone, they fall into patterns of highly anxious or troublesome behavior, such as constant barking or urinating in the house. The most costly result of social anxiety can be the all-out destruction of furniture, clothes, or other household items in a flurrying of chewing and ripping. If you are lucky and such a rampage hasn’t hit your home, check out destructive dog social media videos that inspire a mix of horror and amazement. By the video’s end, you will double over in laughter. The first time we left our dog at home alone, she bounded from dining room table to dresser drawers to kitchen table, trying in a panic to look out any window while leaving claw marks dug deep into the wood grain. It looked like we had pet sat a wolverine!

Why do dogs lose it when they’re home alone? We tend to think it might be because of the great love they have for us, their owners, and they can’t bear time away from us. Well, that can be true. But frequently dogs stress out because they want to go outside or become obsessed with outside noises, grow scared that there is something in the house, or are just bored.

Over these past weeks at home, all of this together time has likely amped up your dog’s dependency on you. This dependency is going to be more extreme if your COVID-19 project is a puppy you just adopted! What are some ways to prep your pup for some alone time? The American Kennel Club advises:

  • Social distancing. We have spent our share of keeping our physical distance from others; now it turns out our dogs need the same medicine. They can spend more time in a crate, alone in the house or by themselves in the back yard. If they are successful, give them a treat and praise.
  • Increase time alone. Gradually build up their alone time, a little bit longer each day.
  • Imitate your old routine. For the days before you return to your job, get up at the normal workday time, go through your morning routine – even leave the house for a while. This will make those first days alone more normal to your dog.
  • Exercise! Each morning, set aside time for a walk, a run or at least 15 minutes of fetch, tug of war, or other types of vigorous play.
  • Toys. Your dog chewing on toys is better than them shredding your shoes! Also, puzzle toys might keep your pet occupied for a good stretch of time. The more distracted your puppy is, the less likely they are going to go ballistic from a neighbor’s barking dog, the tedium of a long solitary afternoon or that evil squirrel that always hangs outside the living room window.
  • Stay mellow. This may be the hardest one of all, considering we are in the middle of a pandemic. But dogs sense our feelings. If you can be relaxed during this time of transition, the more likely your pup will accept that this change is okay.
  • Start now. Remember – this is the time for your dog to start building up its home-alone endurance.

Want to read more about separation anxiety in dogs? Check out the American Kennel Club’s advice at

Piper the Saint Bernard.

Can my pet give me COVID-19?

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Another question we never imagined before!

Many of us adore our pets. They give us tail-wagging, purring, squawking doses of pure love, whether we’ve earned such huge affection or not! This is good medicine, especially as our lives have narrowed. Plus, we get to hang out with someone who is not going to say one thing about COVID-19. What a relief! It seems like we tend to worry about even good things these days. A lot of that worry keeps us safe when we practice physical distancing and a little obsessive hand washing. But it also brings up new and strange ideas like, “Can I catch COVID-19 from my pet?”

Who’s at risk: us or our pets?

There is limited evidence on the subject, but the evidence we have suggests animals can become sick with COVID-19 from us! Several dogs have tested positive for coronavirus after contact with infected humans. Ferrets seem to be susceptible. I didn’t see that one coming! Cats also. As you may have heard, this includes not only house cats but also the four tigers and three lions that tested positive for COVID-19 at the Bronx Zoo. So, remember, if you are within six feet of a tiger or lion, wear a face mask!

On the other hand, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states, “At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.” The risk from animals, including your pet, is low. All the same, the CDC upgraded its guidance telling us to be a bit more cautious about our pets. Here’s what we should do:

Physical distancing and your pet

  • Think of your pet like any other member of your family; we should make sure they stay at least six feet away from non-household members, both humans and animals. No puppy tussling, no snuggles from the neighbors!
  • Keep dogs on a leash to maintain distance.
  • Keep cats indoors when possible so they don’t have contact with other people or pets.
  • Dog parks or crowded public spaces are a no go.

If you are sick, protect your pets!

The CDC has added chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell to its list of COVID-19 symptoms, expanding on the long-known symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. You can learn more about these symptoms by clicking here. If you have any of these symptoms, keep your distance and do not have contact with your pets. That involves:

  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your pets while you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or your bed.
  • If you have to care for your pet while you’re sick, wear a face mask or covering and wash your hands before and after contact with them.
  • If your pet becomes sick while you are ill, don’t take your pet to the veterinary clinic yourself. Call your vet and let them know you have been sick, possibly with COVID-19 or a confirmed diagnosis. Some vets offer telemedicine consultations or have other plans for seeing sick pets. Your vet can identify solutions that keep you, others and your pet safe.

You’re a great pet owner!

You’ve read this post to the end, so you’re a curious and great pet owner! This means you probably want more information. Just check out the CDC’s COVID-19 and Animals Frequently Asked Questions.