Loons - Our Endangered Neighbours
Cottage Life Magazine calls the loon “Our Grand Obsession.”
Indeed, what cottager has not thrilled to the familiar form of the first loon to return to the lake in early spring? Yet, Kahshe Lake is not as hospitable an environment for this magnificent bird as it once was. In spite of our professed devotion, we humans cause serious stress to our loon population in several ways.
Because of its anatomy, the loon is virtually helpless on land, so of necessity, they build their nests on the very edge of the water. Wake-boarding may be fun, but any speeding boat that creates a large wake can wash the eggs right out of these low-lying nests. This has forced loons into more shallow secluded areas, but jet-skis have easy access to even the most secure refuge. A thoughtless operator can cause further trauma by “exploring” the fringes of the lake.
Kahshe Lake has long been a fisherman’s delight but according to the Canadian Lakes Loon Survey, about 27% of adult loons die of poisoning caused by ingesting lead sinkers and jigs discarded by fishermen who cut their lines free of a snag.
Another long standing problem for the loon is acid rain and the pollution caused by additives introduced to the lake by the use of insecticides and pesticides. Acid leaches mercury and other toxic metals out of the rocks and, as a top predator in the aquatic food chain, the loon is susceptible to toxic levels of mercury.
The loon is an extremely adaptable creature and has survived in spite of our invasive behaviours. However, who on Kahshe Lake has failed to notice the decline in the number of chicks seen on the lake in the past few years? Are we making it virtually impossible for loons to breed and nurture their young to maturity? If indeed we are obsessed by loons, let us be obsessed with their well-being so that we can enjoy their company for generations to come.