Monday, December 1, 2008

Loon Rescued on Muskellunge Lake, Undergoing Treatment for Lead Poisening

Each year, loons in danger are reported. Some times the loon is able to work its way out of whatever problem it is in--tangled in fishing line, stuck with a lure, or entrapped in other things such as a plastic bag. But if a loon has swallowed lead tackle, there's no way for it to help itself. One lead split shot sinker is lethal, and the loon is helpless as it looses function over its muscles and ability to swim and dive. Loon rescues are complicated and not every loon reported can be helped. It takes a special group of people--typically going above and beyond their regular work duties--to pull off the kind of rescue that happened at Muskellunge Lake in Wisconsin last week.

As the loon became trapped in the ice, concerned citizens, Tom and Ruth Cerull and Bob and Susan Hodkiewicz, tried opening up a take-off strip for the loon by using an aerator. When the aerator wouldn't stay going, they sounded the alarm. The Pickerel Fire and Rescue responded and they did it in a second. They took the lead and Marge Gibson from Raptor Education Group Inc. came to bring the loon back to her rehabilitation center in Antigo, WI. The above picture captures the moment just after rescue. Once at the rehabilitation center, Gibson was able to confirm that the loon had lead poisening. Even if Tom and Bob had been able to open up the ice, it's unlikely the loon could have flown because of its condition.

The rescued female loon is 9 lbs. and stands a good chance at recovery as long as the lead sinker can be removed. The report from Gibson is that she has a rather large sinker in her stomach that is high up in the digestive system (shown on the x-ray). She has a high blood lead level. The only hope is to get the lead out of her before she becomes toxic. Gibson is trying mineral oil to get it to pass, but surgery might be required.

Marge Gibson and Raptor Education Group Inc. rehabilitate loons, swans, eagles and many other bird species that have accidently eaten lead tackle while feeding. Several trumpeter swans and two other loon are at the center right now undergoing treatment for lead poisening. For those of us who don't see the devestation in person, it can be easy to forget that lead tackle is toxic and kills wildlife. The hope for these birds is not just to recover, but for anglers to change their ways and use alternatives to lead tackle. There's many ways to get involved and help to promote lead-free tackle in your community and nation wide . Contact Loonwatch at for more information.

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