- The Department of Natural Resources is warning fisherman and boaters to watch out for loons.
Several recent reports of injuries has the DNR asking fisherman to be careful about using lead based tackle.
If it gets lost in the water, it can severely hurt the loons and in some cases be deadly.
DNR Wildlife Biologist, Jeremy Holts, said “One jig head or one small split shot sinker is all it takes to kill a 15lbs loon.”
An injured loon was found Thursday on a dirt road in Hazlehurst. He was brought to Wild Instincts, a non-profit animal rehabilitation center in Rhinelander.
Wild Instincts Dir. Of Rehabilitation, Mark Naniot, said “It does have a broken wing tip which we’re hoping will heal but he was fairly starved. We still need to do x-rays and blood work to determine if there’s any hooks, jig heads, or lead levels in the loon.”
Mark says with plenty of medical attention and minnows, the loon should be released in about 4 to 6 weeks. But some injured loons aren’t so lucky.
“The one we had with lures on both feet, that one was not able to defend its territory and a male rival that will actually come in and kill the chicks if they’re not his and this one actually did kill the chick and took over the territory and drove the injured one out into another area," said Naniot.
What makes the fishing tackle so poisonous for the birds is the high lead levels. Once a bird is contaminated with lead, the results are often fatal.
“There really isn’t much of a cure. If we get it at toxic levels there is a chemical we can give the animals but the treatment is very difficult as well. Because of the toxic levels the animal almost always has permanent damage whether it’s liver damage, brain damage, or kidney damage," Naniot.
But there are things fisherman can do to help keep the birds safe.
“Fisherman can take simple steps. For example they can buy a non-toxic shot a split shot that’s made of tin or other non-lead materials and non-toxic jig heads as well an major retailers and online stores," said Holtz.
Wild Instincts typically takes in about ten injured loons a year but Mark predicts the amount of loons that die from lead poisoning each year is much higher.
“When people think of the north they think of eagles and loons. They’re symbolic of this part of the country this part of Wisconsin. And we hate to see the bird that we all equate with the north needlessly injured or killed by one of our leisurely activities," Holtz said.