LoonSafe Effort Seeks to Reduce Disturbance to Loons, Lead Poisoning,  and Other Hazards During 4th of July Weekend

MOULTONBOROUGH, NH – (6/30) Loon chicks have begun to hatch on lakes around the state, and the Loon Preservation Committee is asking boaters to help protect New Hampshire’s threatened loons by maintaining a safe distance during this 4th of July holiday and the remainder of the nesting season.

“The close approach of boats can create stress for loon parents, distracting them from caring for and feeding their chicks” said Harry Vogel, Executive Director/Senior Biologist at the Loon Preservation Committee. “It’s a full-time job for two loon parents to raise their chicks over the course of the summer, and we are asking people to make sure they have the space to do that.”  While blame is often placed on motor boats, kayaks and canoes also pose a threat in terms of disturbing loons and loon families. The Loon Preservation Committee recommends that all boats, including kayaks and canoes, maintain a distance of at least 150 feet from loons, especially those with chicks.

In addition to distracting adult loons from their parenting duties, boaters driving quickly run the risk of hitting adult loons or loon chicks, which may cause injury or death. Loon chicks have a higher risk of being struck by boats than adult loons because they are smaller, more difficult to see on the water, and less able to dive deep or for extended periods of time. “Loon chicks, especially young ones, are much more buoyant than adults, which limits their ability to dive out of the way of fast-approaching boats,” Vogel explained. Because loon chicks are likely to be with adults, the Loon Preservation Committee recommends that all boaters slow down whenever they see adult loons and give them a wide berth.

Loons give behavioral cues, including swimming away, vocalizing, craning their necks low over the water, and even thrashing in the water in extreme circumstances to communicate that boaters are too close. Vogel explained that if boaters observe any of these behaviors, they should back away. “The best way to observe loons is with a good pair of binoculars, and the best way to photograph them is with a long telephoto lens,” he said.

The Loon Preservation Committee is also urging boaters to maintain no wake speed within 200 feet of all shorelines, especially those around islands. “Many loons throughout the state are still nesting,” said Vogel. “Because they nest very close to the water’s edge, boat wakes have the potential to flood nests and cause them to fail.”

Meanwhile, to prevent loon deaths from lead poisoning, the Loon Preservation Committee and New Hampshire Fish and Game have again teamed up with eight local tackle shops to offer a lead tackle buyback program to help anglers dispose of lead sinkers and jigs that are now banned by state law.

From now through the end of the year, or until this season’s initial 2,000 certificates are claimed, anglers can exchange one ounce or more of banned tackle (jigs and sinkers) for a $10 gift certificate redeemable at participating shops in Bristol, Effingham, Errol, Holderness, Meredith, New London, Newbury, and Raymond.  Full details of the buyback and participating shops can be found online at www.loonsafe.org.  Collection receptacles for old lead tackle can also be found at all New Hampshire Fish and Game offices, numerous transfer stations, and other sites throughout the state.  An interactive map of disposal sites is available at https://loonsafe.org/shops-and-disposal-sites/ .

Loons are a threatened species in New Hampshire and are protected by state and federal laws from hunting or harassment, including following adults with chicks.  If you see a sick or injured loon, please call the Loon Preservation Committee (603-476-5666) or if you observe harassment of loons, please contact the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department (603-271-3361) or Marine Patrol (603-293-2037) for assistance. 

The Loon Preservation Committee monitors loons throughout the state as part of its mission to restore and maintain a healthy population of loons in New Hampshire; to monitor the health and productivity of loon populations as sentinels of environmental quality; and to promote a greater understanding of loons and the natural world.