CARLSBAD, N.M. (KRQE) - Another mass die-off of New Mexico wildlife has been reported, this time in the Pecos River.
But unlike the mysterious kills of an elk herd in northeastern New Mexico and dozens of catfish at Ute Lake, investigators with the New Mexico Department Game and Fish believe they know what killed the nearly 5,000 bass.
"We could see them fishing, flying," said Carlsbad resident Viola Aguilar. "I mean the kids got excited saying there goes fish flying, but now there's nothing."
Nothing, she added, but a foul odor.
"We were feeding the ducks. I said throw the bread and lets go. It's starting to really smell," Aguilar said.
That smell is coming from piles of dead fish swept ashore on Bataan Lake near Carlsbad.
"It's not good. That's one of our popular fisheries especially for the locals there," said Eric Frey, manager of the game department's Sportsfish Program.
Frey said sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning nearly 5,000 fish died. He says the culprit is golden algae.
According to Game and Fish golden algae is a toxic organism that disrupts the nutrients in fresh water. It's most deadly when there's a sudden environmental change like the big rainstorm Carlsbad experienced Monday.
"It creates a perfect condition for golden algae to bloom, and when it blooms it creates a toxin that kills the fish," said Frey.
Golden algae have two distinct traits: a tea like color and a foamy residue. Bataan Lake had both.
"It makes the water look like soapy dish water," he said.
Aguilar said she's not sure she's ready to take any chances at the lake just yet.
"They enjoy coming to the park, and I enjoy coming and having picnics, but if it's not going to be safe then we will have to find somewhere else to go," she said.
The Game and Fish Department said the golden algae are only toxic to gill-breathing amphibians. It's not harmful to humans.
The department said it could take up to three years before Bataan Lake is completely replenished with fish.
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