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July 4, 2013

Loon chicks are especially vulnerable now

MOULTONBOROUGH — The Loon Preservation Committee reports that loon chicks are hatching on lakes around the state just in time for the July 4 holiday, making them more vulnerable to disturbance as human activity increases on the lakes.

If you see an adult loon with chicks, make sure to stay at least 150 feet from them so the parents can concentrate on feeding and caring for their chicks.

If the adult shows any signs of distress such as craning its neck low over the water, thrashing about in the water, or vocalizing, leave the area as soon as possible. Newly hatched chicks are small, dark and cannot dive so use caution if you are traveling by boat.

Boat collisions are the greatest human-related cause of chick mortality and the third highest cause of adult loon mortality after lead fishing tackle and monofilament line/other fishing tackle.

Last year, Loon Preservation Committee biologists recorded 170 loon chicks hatched, but 21 percent of those chicks did not survive. Studies indicate that a minimum breeding success rate of 0.48 surviving chicks per loon pair is needed to maintain the loon population over the long term.

In 2012, with record levels of management and outreach, New Hampshire’s loons were able to achieve the minimum reproductive success required to sustain their population. LPC biologists are hoping for another productive breeding season this year for the state-threatened loon population.

The annual Loon Census will take place on Saturday, July 20, from 8 to 9 a.m. This mid-season count gives LPC a “snapshot” on loon productivity throughout the state and also helps discover new territories. If you would like to participate, contact LPC at 476-5666 or volunteers@loon.org.

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 observe harassment of loons, you may contact the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department (271-3361) or Marine Patrol (293-2037) for assistance.

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