We admitted a loon from NW WI found by Randy Olsen under his dock. The loon had three treble hooks and Muskie lure embedded in her chest, wing and foot on her left side. Randy was able to capture the loon and transport it to Medford where he met Steve Fisher for the transport to REGI in Antigo. Our gratitude to Randy for his help and Steve for making an early morning trip to Medford to meet.
We see loons accidentally caught with hooks and lures often in the summer season. It can and does happen accidentally. Loons share northern lakes with fisherman and can be persistent around boats have been known to actually chase realistic lures. This patient was the most "caught" loons we have seen. Removing the treble hooks without tearing her skin or causing nerve damage was a lengthy and touchy procedure. The loon had three treble hooks in her body. One hook penetrated two layers of her wing and indicated she was hooked while sitting with the wing folded. We are delighted to report that the female loon is doing well and while she is still working on regaining strength and resolving soft tissue injury, in a loon that part of her recovery is best done in a lake not in our rehabilitation facility. She is eating well, has gained weight and is ready to be released.
That should be the end of the story, except it isn't in this case. Working with wildlife means we must know every aspect of the natural history or each species we work with. This case is one of those that could have fatal consequences if not doneperfectly.
We have consulted a well-known loon researchers and other loon experts to make the best choice for her. The story of the release issues follows.
The problem with release is... the loon was likely hooked during Memorial Day weekend (5-24, 25, 26) She was admitted on May 31st. That means she spent some several days to a week, disabled, before she was found and rescued. She was evidently sitting on eggs when hooked. The residents of the lake reported when by the time they found the injured loon, her eggs had disappeared.
A major complication.... Another female has moved into the territory and now has a nest with the resident male. Loons are very territorial and if we return her to her original lake, a small 46-acre lake, the chance of her being killed by the new female is about 95%. Our patient is still recovering from soft tissue injury and regaining strength. It would not be a fair battle. A territorial dispute would also disrupt the current nesting and likely result in the second nest failing as well.
A well-organized plan has been formulated and will be executed tomorrow. The loon will be banded with color bands for identification and released on large lake with neutral territory, i.e. no nesting loons. It is possible that she will fly back to her lake, however she will have regained her strength at that point and can choose to participate in the loon territorial behavior or not. Most experts feel she will not return until next year, having suffered the loss of her nest and suffering injuries this year. We hope that is the case, but if not, she will be able to be identified.
The loon specialists all feel certain this type of injury on the loon was done purposely while she was sitting on a nest. The position of a loon on a nest is they sit up higher than the surrounding area. I will include a photo of a loon...not our patient...on a nest so you can see the position. The lure seems to have been cast to "catch a loon". We are told that this is a new "game” mindless individuals find amusing. It is illegal of course as is destruction of the nest and eggs of a migratory species. This is now a legal case.
If you know of someone that finds "casting for loons" amusing or a fun pastime, PLEASE say something. Please speak up! Do not allow it to happen and then report the situation with by phone of text to:
State of Wisconsin to the Violation HOT LINE 1-800-847-9367
Loons are a well-loved part of our Northwoods lakes. We cannot allow people, that do not know, or care take that away from us. Our patient has a happy ending through the help of many. We are grateful to everyone and hopeful we can stop this horrible trend. Photos of her release coming soon!!