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 firstname.lastname@example.org .