Loon dies after ingesting lead fishing tackle; ban set to take effect in 2016

Last modified: 7/9/2015 12:15:27 AM
A loon on Lake Winnipesaukee died after it ingested lead tackle, according to the state Fish and Game Department. It’s the first documented loon lead-poisoning death this year.

On average, lead poisoning kills six to eight adult loons in the state each year, said Harry Vogel, executive director of the Loon Preservation Committee. That number reached a high in 2011, when 11 loons perished.

“Lead is a toxic substance, if it is eaten by any living thing it will have a negative effect,” said Emily Preston, a wildlife biologist with New Hampshire Fish and Game. Ingesting lead tackle, lodged in a fish for example, can prove fatal for loons.

Officials discovered the dead bird in early July on the beach in Alton Bay. Medical tests revealed lead fishing tackle in the loon’s gizzard and toxic lead levels in the bird’s blood.

Lead sinkers weighing 1 ounce or less are not permitted for use under state law. A new measure, set to take effect in June 2016, will ban lead-headed jigs weighing less than 1 ounce.

“It’s really important for people to understand the law and follow it,” Preston said. “We’re still seeing loons that have ingested lead fishing tackle that is already illegal in the state.”

Officials say lead is one of the biggest threats to the state’s loon population, which has been recovering from a low of less than 100 pairs in 1975. New Hampshire counted nearly 300 adult pairs last year. Loons have been expanding their range in New Hampshire to new ponds, instead of concentrating in the state’s big lakes, Preston said.

“The population is growing, but it is growing very slowly,” Vogel said. “The key to maintain a viable population is to keep adults alive.”

ALLIE MORRIS




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