Volume 89 | July 23rd, 2019

Having trouble viewing this email? Click here .
On the evening of June 26th, we received a call at the Loon Center about a loon on a pond in northern New Hampshire that was tangled in fishing line. We started off by asking the callers the usual questions that we ask when a tangled loon is reported: could they actually see fishing line, or was their report based on behavior they were observing?often, preening or bathing loons can appear to be tangled, when in reality they are just performing normal behaviors to keep their feathers in good condition. If they were seeing fishing line, was it wrapped around the loon's bill, or was it stuck somewhere else? Did the loon seem to be able to dive, or was it staying on the surface? Did the loon appear to be vigorous, or was it behaving in a more subdued manner?

The caller's answers to these questions painted a dire picture: the loon was part of a nesting pair on the pond, and it had fishing line wrapped tightly around its bill. This is the most dangerous sort of entanglement for loons. Loons with bills wrapped in line are not able to open their mouths, which means that they are unable to eat or waterproof their feathers. Loons in this situation can decline rapidly, going from perfectly healthy to emaciated and waterlogged within as little as a week. The fact that the loon was a member of a nesting pair made a rescue attempt that much more urgent —i f we did not act, it was possible that we might lose not only the adult loon but also the potential chicks from his nest.
Loons with fishing line tangled around their bills are in serious danger. If you see a loon like the one above, please call us at the Loon Center! Photo courtesy of Don Polunci.
Early the next morning, our North Country biologist attempted a rescue with the help of a local volunteer. The initial rescue attempt was unsuccessful, as the loon was still able to dive and evade capture. While it was unfortunate that we were not able to catch him at that time, the amount of vigor that he displayed during the capture attempt boded well, as it meant that he was still in good body condition. We decided that it would be best for the loon if we tried another rescue attempt that night instead of waiting before we tried again.

Armed with a spotlight and a capture net, we set out on the pond after sunset. Our plan? To use the same methods that we use while banding loons to capture this adult. We shined our spotlight around the small pond, searching. After about 15 minutes, we located him and began our capture attempt. We kept the spotlight trained on the loon as we slowly approached him in our small boat. Because of the spotlight, the loon was unable to see what was approaching, so he stayed above water. We were able to pull the boat up to within 5 feet of him and scoop him up in our net. From there, we headed back to the boat launch to begin the process of untangling him.
LPC's North Country Biologist Sam Moore held the loon as I worked to untangle the line from its bill

As we cut the fishing line free from the loon's bill, we noticed that the line had been wrapped so tightly that it had dug into the skin of his face. 
Tightly wrapped fishing line had dug into the loon's bill and the skin above it.
We also noticed that some of the line appeared to be going down his throat. Wanting to make sure that he had not swallowed lead tackle that would undoubtedly kill him, we packed up the loon and headed to Littleton Area Veterinary Emergency Service for a radiograph. We also drew blood and performed a lead test. Fortunately, the radiograph did not show anything of concern in the loon's gizzard and the lead test came back negative. The loon was a healthy weight, was very vigorous, and showed no signs of underlying health problems. Given those factors, we determined that it would be safe to release him back onto his pond so that he could continue to help his mate incubate their eggs. Before releasing him, we banded him so that we could track him in the future.
LPC's 2019 Tufts Veterinary Student Olivia Pea (right) and I held the loon still as the radiograph was performed.
Just a week later, the male and his mate hatched two chicks! We are happy that we were able to rescue him and get him back onto his territory quickly, and we look forward to being able to track the progress of this family over the course of the summer. We want to extend a sincere thank you to our friends at Littleton Area Veterinary Emergency Service, who not only welcomed us into their offices late at night but also provided the radiograph entirely free of charge.
The male loon swims with his mate and newly hatched chicks just a week after he was rescued.
While this story had a happy ending for the loon, often times similar stories do not. Every year, loons die as a result of fishing line entanglement or of lead poisoning resulting from the ingestion of lead fishing tackle. LPC encourages all anglers to fish responsibly by taking their fishing line with them when they leave our lakes and ponds and by using non-lead fishing tackle. If you are out on a lake and notice fishing line in the water or shoreline, please collect it. Please also consider exchanging any lead fishing tackle you may have in your tackle box at one of the shops participating in LPC's Lead Tackle Buyback Program (for a list of participating shops, please click HERE ). You just might save a loon's life.


Caroline Hughes
Volunteer/Outreach Coordinator
Loon Preservation Committee
Upcoming Events

LPC's Annual Benefit Raffle is up and running! To view our prizes, please click HERE. To purchase raffle tickets, give us a call at (603)476-5666.

Join us for our Summer Nature Talk Series , every Thursday from July 11th-August 22nd at 7 PM . For a list of topics, please click HERE .

The Winni Swim is back for a second year! The swim will be held on August 8th 2019 at 10:00 AM. To register to swim or paddle around Ragged Island with our swimmers, please email info@loon.org or call LPC at (603)476-5666.

The Carl Johnson Memorial Golf Tournamen t will be held on Monday, August 19th . Pre-registration is required for this event — please contact LPC at (603)476-5666 or by email at info@loon.org for more information.
Loon Preservation Committee | 603-476-LOON (5666) | www.loon.org

Loon Center Hours: Open Sunday-Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm
The Loon Preservation Committee is dedicated to restoring and maintaining a healthy population of loons throughout New Hampshire; monitoring the health and productivity of loon populations as sentinels of environmental quality; and promoting a greater understanding of loons and the natural world.