Loon Preservation Committee takes care of two loon rescues | Nautical
Last month, the Loon Center received a call regarding a loon in distress on Skatutakee Lake in Harrisville. After days of heavy rain, the lake level had risen, creating a current that carried the male plunge above the dam and into the Nubanusit stream below. The loon was washed away about a quarter of a mile into Nubanusit Creek, and the appellant found it sitting in a quiet spot near a bridge on the East View Trail. Water levels in Nubanusit Creek were high, and the loon was out of reach and surrounded by strong currents.
As LPC biologists Elaina Badders and Mary Caffrey gathered the necessary equipment for a rescue, the center called Brett Amy Thelen, scientific director of the Harris Center for Conservation Education, to keep an eye on the loonie until it arrived.
By the time biologists arrived, the loon had been carried further downstream and out of sight, crossing stretches of raging rapids. The group, joined by Thelen’s husband Russ Cobb, searched for the loonie along the creek, following it for 800 meters through the woods. As their research progressed, the conditions became more dangerous. The creek was in flood and some sections had dangerous currents. When a thunderstorm erupted, the rescue team ended their search overnight.
The next morning, Thelen and Cobb returned to the area, determined to locate the loonie. They hiked a quarter mile on the East View trail before heading to the creek. After another quarter of a mile, they still hadn’t located the loonie. They were about to give up when they heard him call. Following the noise, they located the loon, which had managed to get out of the stream and onto the shore. They called the LPC and Caffrey returned to the area to help bring the loon back to the trailhead. After a half-mile hike carrying the loon, the loon was loaded into a box and transported to Maria Colby of Wings of the Dawn Wildlife Rehabilitation for examination and observation. Although his feet were a bit scratched, the loon did not have any major injuries or underlying issues, and he has shown he is able to swim, dive and catch fish. After a night of observation, the dive was banded and returned to its lake, where it reunited with its mate and two young chicks. This incredible rescue would not have been possible without a dedicated team of people looking for the loonie.
As the Skatutakee rescue unfolded, another New Hampshire loon was in need of help as well. That same week, an LPC team undertook what they believed to be a routine banding trip over Mascoma Lake to Enfield. Aside from heavy fog, the banding trip seemed relatively routine at first glance: it captured both of the pair and their chick, and all of the dives were acting normally. The next day, while doing our routine tests on blood taken from adult loons the night before, they discovered a problem: the pair’s male loon had blood lead levels of 25.8 micrograms per deciliter. This is a high lead level for a loonie, approaching but not quite at the fatal level. If the LPC could not recapture the loonie and remove the lead object from its gizzard, its condition would decline rapidly and it would die of lead poisoning.
The following night, LPC field biologists Caffrey, Phil Keefe and Jayden Jech returned to Mascoma Lake. Armed with a searchlight and a capture net, they searched for the loons family. Fortunately, the rescue attempt went well and within an hour, they had the loonie in hand. Just after midnight, the loon was transported to Wings of the Dawn Wildlife Rehabilitation. The next morning, an x-ray revealed a lead object in the loon’s gizzard. The loon was transported to the Tufts Wildlife Clinic at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center for gastric lavage – a process in which small volumes of fluid are used to flush items from the stomach and digestive tract.
Typically, loons don’t show signs of lead poisoning until it’s too late to save them. The LPC was fortunate that the banding work allowed them to catch this case of lead poisoning early on, before the loonie started showing symptoms. Although the future of this loonie is still uncertain, it has a chance of survival. The LPC hopes that once the lead object has been removed and after a few days of treatment, he may be able to bring it back to his lake with his partner and his chick. This story is a reminder to take the tackle unleaded and safe for loons. The smallest piece of lead fishing gear can cause deadly lead poisoning in a loon. LPC encourages all anglers to clean their tackle boxes and get rid of any lead material that persists.
LPC’s lead material buyback program is underway – anglers with lead material to get rid of can receive a $ 10 voucher by visiting loonsafe.org for a list of participating retailers. The person who donates the highest amount of material in each store will receive a prize of $ 100, and the person who donates the second highest amount of material will receive $ 50.