Entangled in fishing line, Minnesota loon is saved with midnight rescue effort

13 July 2023

GRAND RAPIDS — The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is reminding anglers to retrieve as much of their broken-off fishing line as possible after an incident with a loon.

Biologists for the DNR last month were called to Deer Lake north of Grand Rapids on a report from another biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who discovered a loon that had fishing line wrapped entirely around its beak and into its wings.

Minnesota DNR crews were called to reports of a loon that had become entangled in fishing line on a lake near Grand Rapids last month. They were able to go back to the loon’s nest at midnight and immobilize the bird with a spotlight and then make a successful rescue by removing the fishing line. (Contributed / Luke Fara, U.S. Geological Survey)

The crew decided it would be impossible to catch the loon during the day because it would keep moving and likely hurt itself worse during any rescue attempt. But they decided to come back at midnight, when the loon was on its nest. They immobilized the loon by shining a spotlight into its eyes and were able to grab it with a large muskie fishing net while it was on a human-made nesting platform where the male bird was taking its turn incubating eggs.

The rescuers removed the fishing line and, after a quick photo, released the loon which swam back to the platform and back onto its eggs, apparently unscathed.

“Fishing line can pose a significant threat to wildlife. Even the most careful anglers will occasionally lose line due to a lure snag or a battle with a fish that broke the line,” the DNR noted in its cautionary tale. “Whenever possible, make an attempt to retrieve broken fishing line and never discard line in the water.”

Spencer Rettler, left, a Minnesota DNR nongame wildlife specialist, and Austin Fischer, DNR assistant area wildlife manager in Grand Rapids, pose with a loon they rescued that had become entangled in discarded fishing line. (Contributed / Luke Fara, U.S. Geological Survey)

The DNR noted that it normally does not conduct animal rescue efforts.

“It’s important for people to know that DNR is not funded for animal rescue. But we really try to help when we have people in the right place and they have the knowledge and tools to help,” Cheri Zeppelin, DNR regional communications director in Grand Rapids, told the News Tribune. “We often rely on volunteers to transport animals to licensed rehabbers.”

For more info about loons in Minnesota go to dnr.state.us/eco/nongame/projects/mlmp_state.html.

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