Protect nesting loons and loon chicks

Loons nesting along lake shorelines are susceptible to human disturbance.
Loons nesting along lake shorelines are susceptible to human disturbance. Photo by Mitch Moraski, Vermont Fish & Wildlife

REGION – The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is asking boaters and anglers to enjoy loons from a safe distance this summer. “Loons were removed from Vermont’s endangered species list in 2005, but two threats loons face are human disturbance during the breeding season and ingestion of fishing gear,” said Doug Morin, wildlife biologist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife.

Morin also reminds people to avoid lead fishing tackle. Loons sometimes swallow stray fishing tackle and suffer the effects of lead poisoning. Lead sinkers weighing one-half ounce or less are illegal in Vermont. Morin also recommends anglers to be careful to not attract loons to their bait and lures, and especially do not leave any fishing line behind as it can kill loons.

Eric Hanson oversees the Loon Conservation Project for the Vermont Center for Ecostudies in partnership with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. Hanson says most people are respectful of nesting loons and give them space, but people sometimes inadvertently harm loons without meaning to. “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.”

Hanson also urges shoreline property owners to maintain appropriate habitat for loons, including a forested area along shorelines. Having shrubs and trees instead of lawns along shorelines also improves water quality.

Volunteers interested in monitoring loons for the Loon Conservation Project should contact Hanson at ehanson@vtecostudies.org. Volunteers can also survey one or two lakes on Loonwatch Day, being held July 18 this year, between 8-9 a.m. The goal is to survey all lakes greater than 20 acres at the same time, which provides a population count.

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