Give nesting loons space

Photo by Tom Rogers, Vt Fish & Wildlife Dept.
Loons nesting along lake shorelines in Vermont are vulnerable to human disturbance, such as motorboat wakes.

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department asks boaters to help nesting loons by enjoying them from a safe distance and taking care with fishing tackle.

“We’re asking people to enjoy loons from a distance using binoculars, whether they are in a motor boat, canoe, or a kayak,” said state wildlife biologist John Buck.

Loons were removed from Vermont’s endangered species list in 2005 following decades of recovery effort. But human disturbance during the breeding season remains one of the main threats still facing loons.

Wildlife officials have marked many but not all nesting areas with signs, Buck said.

Anglers should avoid using lead fishing tackle which can poison birds if its swallowed.

Lead sinkers weighing one-half ounce or less are illegal in Vermont, but larger tackle still has the capacity to slough off lead into the environment over time. Anglers should also take care not to leave behind any fishing line, which can cause harm to birds.

The Loon Conservation Project for the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, in partnership with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, monitors Vermont’s loon population.

Eric Hanson from the loon project said that people sometimes inadvertently harm loons. An example of this is when motorboats get too close to nests.

“Loon chicks can be difficult to see, so we ask motor boaters to note where loon families are and to avoid those areas,” said Hanson. “We also ask that motor boaters obey ‘no wake’ laws within 200 feet of shorelines because boat wakes can flood and destroy shoreline loon nests.”

Boaters also should avoid pursuing loons in a canoe or kayak, especially loons with young. “Occasionally a loon will be curious and approach people and if that happens, just enjoy it,” said Hanson. “However, loons that are constantly swimming away from you are stressed and may abandon their young if they feel they are in danger.”

Volunteers interested in monitoring loons for the Loon Conservation Project may contact Hanson at ehanson@vtecostudies.org. A large effort is planned for July 21 on all lakes larger than 20 acres.

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