Vermont Loons Are Studied at Night
In July and August,
biologists will capture, band, and examine loons on
several Vermont lakes in an effort to determine the
loons' overall health. Biologists will take blood
and feather samples that will be analyzed to
determine levels of mercury and lead in the loons.
of loons has caused increasing concern among
biologists in recent years. Mercury levels in loons
sampled in other New England states have so far been
the highest ever recorded in the U.S. In Vermont
last summer, loons and their eggs were tested for
mercury on three ponds. Lead is a concern because
loons die of lead poisoning after swallowing lead
sinkers and jigs used for fishing.
Because loons are so
elusive, a team of biologists will work late at
night by boat, locating birds with bright lights and
capturing them in large nets. Once their heads are
covered, the birds calm down while being banded,
weighed, sampled, and then released. More than
2,000 adults loons in the United States and Canada
have been sampled without serious injury--a
The bright lights
associated with this research procedure should not
cause alarm for lakeshore residents. Signs will be
posted at boat launch areas of the waterbodies where
the research will be done.
The study is being
conducted by biologists from the Vermont Institute
of Natural Science (VINS), Vermont Department of
Fish and Wildlife, BioDiversity Research Institute,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S.
Geological Survey's Biological Research Division.
For more information
about this long-term research project, contact VINS
loon biologist Eric Hanson at 802-472-6905. To
exchange lead fishing sinkers for non-lead samples
and receive an informational brochure about water
birds and lead, contact the Vermont Agency of
Natural Resources, Department of Fish and Wildlife's
main or district offices. For a list of lead sinker
exchange sites in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont,
call Mark Lorenzo of the National Wildlife
Federation at 802-229-0650 or Ross Stevens at
Brighton State Park.