The loons' eerie calls echo across the glassy, evening waters of lakes in northwestern Montana, somehow enhancing the solitude. In fact, they require solitude spring and summer to successfully breed and raise their young. Of the 65 pairs that attempt to nest in Montana, only about 30 pairs successfully hatch and raise one to two chicks each year.
To help ensure Montana’s loons have the solitude they need, please:
* Avoid disturbing loons by watching for loon nesting sanctuary signs.
* Remember that loon chicks need to ride on their parent’s backs to stay dry, warm and safe. If the adults are disturbed the chicks may become separated from them and suffer from exposure or predation.
* Keep in mind when using personal watercraft that young chicks are too buoyant to dive quickly to get out of the way. They can be run over.
* Be aware that the presence of watercraft will cause chicks to keep swimming instead of feeding and resting. This weakens them quickly and may prevent their survival.
* When using a canoe, take care not to slip into nesting areas. A canoe can startle an adult loon off its nest. The eggs could be knocked into the water and be vulnerable to predators, or the adult could abandon the nest.
* Remember that a loon could leave its nest if a boat or canoe comes within 150 yards, or about the length of one and one-half football fields of the nest.
* Listen for and immediately heed a loon’s distress call by moving away. It sounds like a loud laugh.
For more information, or to become actively involved in a loon project, contact the Montana Loon Society, 6525 Rocky Point Road, Polson, MT 59850-6949, or, to follow the movements of loons returning to Montana, go to http://www.seaturtle.org/tracking and click on Migrating Common Loons.