Loon chick on Mascoma Lake dies

Valley News
Published: 7/20/2021 5:43:37 PM

A male loon that was rescued from Mascoma Lake while suffering lead poisoning underwent a successful procedure on Friday, but its chick, which remained with its mother on the lake, died over the weekend.

Terri Lynch, an Enfield resident and volunteer loon monitor, recovered the chick’s body from the lake on Sunday. The Loon Preservation Committee will conduct a necropsy to determine the exact cause of death.

Caroline Hughes, a field biologist with the nonprofit, said that raising a loon is a two-parent job.

“It can be difficult for one adult to catch enough fish, to keep off the predators and protect from the other loons,” said Hughes.

A procedure at The Tufts Wildlife Clinic, part of the university’s veterinary school in Grafton, Mass., was able to flush out the lead tackle in the adult male’s gizzard. Hughes said it was “acting very rigorous.” The lead levels in its blood have decreased from 25 micrograms per deciliter to 16. After another night at a rehabilitation center, it will likely return to Mascoma Lake, Hughes said.

Lead poisoning caused by fishing tackle has caused 41% of loon deaths documented by the statewide nonprofit since 1989. After years of advocacy, small lead tackle is illegal but still threatens the at-risk species.

The loon was the second to suffer lead poisoning this year. The first did not survive.

“A fisherman making a careless mistake has caused a loon chick to die and an adult male to be very sick. It’s illegal and so wrong,” said Lynch. “It just breaks my heart.”

When she and nearly 50 volunteers combed Mascoma Lake as part of the nonprofit’s annual census on Saturday, they did not find any more chicks. Loons only have one opportunity to reproduce each year. The census results for the region will be tallied by the end of the month.

Claire Potter is a Report for America corps member. She can be reached at cpotter@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.

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