Montana Loon Society Seeley-Swan Loon Watch
May 25, 2023
As I write, loons are claiming their nesting territories and another loon year begins.
Montana’s common loon population is currently “stable” chugging along as a relatively level line that may be slightly increasing. That was not the case when the Montana Loon Study began in 1982 to determine basic biological information about these birds, when they didn’t seem to be reproducing successfully.
I joined the well-developed, albeit small, loon team in 1985. My research determined that human recreational activities (especially spring fishing) caused significant disturbances to nesting loons.
Floating warning signs set about 100 yards from nests gave the birds the space and protection they needed to continue incubation.
Public education at boat ramps explained why the signs were there.
The Montana Loon Study morphed into the Montana Loon Society as more organization was needed to systematically count and monitor loons. Fast forward into the 1990’s, when the Common Loon Working Group, formed.
Composed of biologists and data technology gurus, these folks moved loon management into the twenty-first century. Looking back, I can see that if loon monitoring had not started when it did, Montana would have lost its struggling loon population without us even realizing they were in trouble.
THANK YOU to all who helped stabilize Montana’s loon population.
However, “stable now” doesn’t mean “stable forever.”
MT loons face two challenges; the present and the future! For many reasons, Montana is now the #2 most desired state for thousands of people.
This means increasing rates of lakefront development and recreational activities on loon lakes which will negatively impact nesting and chick development.
Toxins, including lead, mercury and microplastics are a real and present danger. Lead poisoning from ingested fishing lures and sinkers account for well over 50 percent of loon deaths in North America.
However, the big bogeyman of the future is climate change.
Recently the Minnesota Star Tribune warned its readers that common loons were “among 55 species likely to disappear (by moving north into Canada) from Minnesota by 2080” if climate change continues at its current rate.
If Minnesota’s 12,000 loons are at risk in 50 years, what about Montana’s 200 plus loons? Obviously our work is not done despite a presently “stable” population.
How do we proceed? We keep on doing what we have always done. We get out there and find loons! Working together, we will continue to keep loons in the watersheds and landscapes of Montana. If you are interested in helping Montana loons beat the odds of their changing environments, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can put you to work.