MONTPELIER, Vt. – The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and the Vermont Center for Ecostudies are asking boaters and anglers to give loons a hand this summer by enjoying them from a safe distance.
Loons were removed from Vermont’s endangered species list in 2005 following decades of recovery effort. But one of the main threats still facing loons as they continue to recover is human disturbance during the breeding season.
“Most areas where loons are nesting on Vermont’s lakes are surrounded by signs reminding people to give loons the space they need, but not all nesting areas are marked,” said John Buck, a wildlife biologist with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. “We’re asking people to enjoy loons from a distance using binoculars, whether they are in a motor boat, canoe, or a kayak.”
Buck reminds anglers that lead tackle less than ½ ounce is not permitted in Vermont. He also reminds anglers to not leave stray line and tackle behind as loons often become entangled in it.
Eric Hanson oversees the Loon Conservation Project for the Vermont Center for Ecostudies. He and his colleagues monitor Vermont’s loon population and have even put out game cameras around loon nests to monitor the behavior of people around them. Hanson says that most people are respectful of nesting loons and give them space, but people sometimes inadvertently harm loons without meaning to.
“Loon chicks can be difficult to see, so we ask motorboaters to note where loon families are and to avoid those areas,” said Hanson. “We also ask that motorboaters obey ‘no wake’ laws within 200 feet of shorelines because boat wakes can flood and destroy shoreline loon nests.”
As Vermont’s loon population continues to increase and canoeing and kayaking continues to become more popular, there is greater potential for people to come into conflict with loons. Hanson reminders boaters to avoid pursuing loons in a canoe or kayak, especially loons with young.
“Occasionally a loon will be curious and approach people and if that happens, just enjoy it,” said Hanson. “However, loons that are constantly swimming away from you are stressed and may abandon their young if they feel they are in danger.”
Hanson also urges shoreline property owners to maintain appropriate habitat for loons, including a forested area along shorelines where loons can nest.