Saturday, June 23, 2012

Pacific Loon @ Conners Lake

I got a call early this morning from Pet ER. They received a call from a gentlemen about a loon with a broken leg on Conner Lake. At Bird TLC we're not set up to do this type of rescue. We don't have canoe's and that type of equipment. So I figured it was time to call the boss, Heather.

We decided that her husband Sean and her were going to look for someone with a canoe and I was going to call ADF&G, Wildlife Troopers, and anyone else that I could get involved. With great help from Trooper Dispatch, I got a call from ADF&G. Only problem was he didn't have any of that type of equipment or at least access to any on a weekend. Sean and Heather had better success and found a friend with a canoe. That friend was going to drive in from Peters Creek, meet them in Eagle River and while I got other supplies at our clinic they would drive to Connor Lake.
Mosquito's are bad there and even though we sprayed down twice, I'm sure Sean and I are running a quart or two low.
After carrying the canoe and equipment through the woods we made it to the lake and headed out to the nesting area. We saw the loons away from the nest and they saw us also. As we got closer, we spotted the two adults and two chicks. We checked out the nest and around it, but found nothing. We called Heather who was onshore, to find out exactly how many chicks there are. Two!

We moved closer just checking them out and all seemed well. Then we noticed there was just one chick. We had lost track of the other one. We started checking the Lilly pads areas and found the other chick hiding out. As we went to recover it, mom and dad showed their displeasure, but kept their distance.

I was able to do a full exam of the bird and couldn't find any breaks or dislocated joints. The leg operated normally if I moved it manually. The chick showed no pain. There were no predator markes, talons, teeth, etc. The right leg just doesn't work. Now it was time to decide on what to do.
Loons don't do good in captivity and now we have a baby chick with a special problem given by mother nature. If we took it back to the clinic, it had maybe a 25% chance of survival and there's nothing we can do for the leg. Once we have it in clinic and if it survives, it's not re-releasable. It's now a captive bird for the rest of its life.

On the lake we saw it swim and keep up with its parents most of the time. They were watching out for it. It was diving some and it floated better than anything I've ever seen. It also knew how to hide and rest in the Lilly pads. It just couldn't get into the nest.
We decided to leave it. It had a better chance dealing with mother nature than with us intervening. We know this is not going to be a popular decision, but we feel it's the right one. If the chick survives, it'll be a stronger bird for it.
The nesting site and web cam belongs to Anchorage Audubon Society. If you would like to contact them, they can be reached at .
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Minot said...

Thanks for the report and the lovely pictures. For what it's worth, I think you made the right decision. MinotinCA

Unknown said...

Thanks to the whole team for going to the trouble to do this. Good decision to let nature take its course. Thank you.

candygram said...

hank you so much, you eased the minds of hundreds of cam watchers!I have great hope for the chick with his family support!

Shak said...

Dave, thank you - from a life-long Minnesota loon lover - for responding to the cam watchers' concerns about the loon chick, and for going several extra miles to try and help. I'm sure there are people who will second-guess your decision, but in my book, you did exactly the right thing. If that chick has any chance, its parents are the ones to teach it how to cope. Again, thanks.
MNexpat, NC

Donna said...

Thanks for the great pics of baby loon. Will you rescue he/she if unable to migrate in the fall? I can't imagine he/she would be left to freeze or be some predator's meal. A 25% survival in captivity, is better than 0% left to the elements. Thanks again for all you and the rest of TLC did for checking on baby loon yesterday.

Donna Prewitt in Anchorage
palmergrad on twitter

purplejan1976 said...

Thank you and others for all that you did to check on the Loon chick
at Connor Lake. Great pictures
too. Sadly, the Pacific Loon cam
shut down today and there is no
further news of where this little
chick is now. Wish we had some information as to whether it is
still alive....

purplejan1976 said...

why no follow-up on this chick
who was in distress with a leg
problem? I feel this chick and
the problem with it, had been
ignored. I feel so badly about

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your efforts. Agree that you made right decision. Some viewers don't seem to know difference between a cute pet and a wild animal who is also the natural prey of others up the food chain. That's what usually happens to the old, the ill, etc. What about the eagle chicks or young snapping turtles? Are they supposed to starve? No wonder the cam shut down.

purplejan1976 said...

I certainly know the difference
between a cute pet and a wild
animal. The Loon chick is a wild
animal that needed further help.
If TLC was not the organization to
check on this further, than perhaps
this Loon Chick should have been
turned over to an organization that had the the expertise and equipment
to help this wildlife chick.
Thank you again Dave for what you
could do at that time.

Dave @ Around Anchorage, Alaska said...

Thank you everyone for your kind comments. Work done at Bird TLC is done as an organization, not as one individual. So for those of you thanking just me, I passed it on to everyone at TLC.

The operators of the Pacific Loon cam on Conners Lake tell us that they shut it down this time of year, every year. The Loons spend most of if not all of their time on the lake. If you have questions or concerns about that, please address it to them at the email in the above post. They are not affiliated with Bird TLC.

At this time, we have no plans to check up on the Loons regularly. If we are there or not, mother nature will take its course letting them survive or not. If the injured chick survives but is unable to migrate, at that time we will come up with a recovery plan.

Bird TLC is a non-profit volunteer organization. We are the largest wild bird rahabilitaion facility in Alaska. Last year we took in 62 eagles and over 600 other types of birds native to Alaska or migrating through Alaska. We will do whatever it takes within reason to rescue and rehabilitate a wild bird. Like it or not, we have made a decission on how to deal with this specific Loon, and we stand by it. We knew it wouldn't be a popular decission and well recieved by everyone, but we believe what we are doing what is in the best interest of the chick.

Bird TLC operates under the permits of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.