by Claire Pendergast
There is nothing more peaceful and welcoming when arriving each summer than the sound of loon calls on Keoka Lake. This summer there have been several close encounters between loons and humans, with our beloved loon family and their two young chicks approaching swimmers and boaters. It appears that our sweet family is becoming a bit confused and consequently too comfortable with their human neighbors. As wonderful as that experience can seem to us, it’s not safe for our loons. According to Sally Stockwell, Director of Conservation at Maine Audubon, loons who share habitats with humans can become more accustomed to humans and their activities. Loons living farther north, with less human development and activity, tend to be more wary of humans.
Maine Audubon states that one of the leading causes of loon deaths is collisions with boats and watercraft. Boat wakes can easily overwhelm small chicks and also flood a loon’s shoreline nest. This is more likely to happen when boaters don’t follow the 200-foot “no-wake” zone from shore; when a personal watercraft circles in one area for a prolonged period of time; or when the newer “wake boats” create strong wakes that spread out across the lake and shoreline. Canoers and kayakers can also get too close to the families and their nests and startle a nesting loon off the nest, leaving the eggs unprotected. Boats that are too close to loons can also separate chicks from adults.
Maine Audubon recommends some simple guidelines that may be applied to reduce boating impacts on loons:
Watch for loons and keep your distance, especially in shallow coves used as nursery areas and where loons have trouble diving to escape. Slow down when close to shore.
Stay away from nesting loons. If you find one, move out of the area.
Back away when loons display warning signs.
Learn about loon behavior by following the “Loon Calendar” at https://www.maineaudubon.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/LivinginLoonTerritory2020.pdf
Keep milfoil and other invasive exotic plants out of Maine’s lakes by ensuring your boat and trailer are “weed free.”
Loons need clean, clear water so they can catch fish. Shoreline development can impact water quality by increasing run-off, erosion, and contamination by household chemicals. Shoreline development may eliminate natural nesting habitat or reduce habitat quality by increasing disturbance and predation.
Additional simple guidelines recommended by Maine Audubon to help our loons:
Reduce run-off and erosion from your waterfront property by encouraging natural vegetation along the shoreline.
Use only phosphate-free detergent and fertilizer.
Keep pets from running wild along lake shores and harassing wildlife.
Make sure garbage is out of reach of loon predators like skunks and raccoons.
Enjoy loons from a distance with binoculars or a spotting scope, especially if they are nesting near your camp.
Avoid fishing for prolonged periods in secluded coves where loons may be nesting or feeding, especially in early summer when the eggs and young chicks are most vulnerable.
Use only lead-free sinkers and jigs, and properly dispose of old lead tackle.
Retrieve and properly dispose of broken fishing line. Pick up discarded tackle and line.
Finally, please obey Maine’s laws that protect wildlife and wildlife habitat:
All watercraft must be kept at or under head-way speed and leave no wake within 200 feet of any shoreline.
Watercraft operators cannot disturb, chase or harass wildlife.
We at Keoka love our loons. Let’s do our part to keep them safe and wild.