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Maine's Loon Count Shows Slight Dip, But Officials Say Population Is Healthy

Pat Wellenbach
Associated Press/file
In this July 2007 file photo, a loon with a chick on its back makes its way across Pierce Pond near North New Portland, Maine.

Maine Audubon says its annual loon count shows that the birds’ population in the state appears strong and steady at about 3,200 adults and 372 chicks, but is down slightly from the year before.

Audubon wildlife ecologist Tracy Hart says the state’s doing well at protecting loons in some areas by prohibiting wakes within 200 feet of shore. But she says concerns have been raised about recreational wake boats, which create a wake that’s big enough for people to surf behind.

“So even if a boat is further than 200 feet offshore, I haven’t seen it myself, some people think the wake that comes to shore is big enough to affect loons,” she says. “The population is healthy but we need to be vigilant because of the challenges that remain.”

Hart also says another effort to protect loons — a ban on lead fishing tackle — has a loophole that still allows some lead tackle to be used. And she says other concerns, such as flooding and disturbance of the loons’ shoreline nests, are still very present.

Even with this year’s slight drop in numbers, there are twice as many adults today as there were in the mid ’80s, and the number of chicks is also up.

The count covers loon populations in the area of Maine that’s below the 45th parallel, which runs east to west and divides the state roughly in two.

Originally published Jan. 6, 2020 at 12:41 p.m. ET.

Nora is originally from the Boston area but has lived in Chicago, Michigan, New York City and at the northern tip of New York state. Nora began working in public radio at Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor and has been an on-air host, a reporter, a digital editor, a producer, and, when they let her, played records.