Minnesotans are being asked to gather dead loons to help biologists learn the bird’s main causes of death in a statewide study sponsored by the state’s Department of Natural Resources. The research seeks to ensure the continued health of Minnesota’s state bird, the common loon.
The DNR is asking for help in collecting recently dead loons that are not showing signs of decomposition.
To collect a specimen for testing, people should use disposable gloves to put the dead loon in a plastic bag. Barehanded contact with dead animals is to be avoided. If gloves are not available, the DNR suggests turning a plastic shopping bag inside out to scoop up the specimen with the bag. The specimen should be placed in a freezer as soon as possible. If a freezer is not available, place the specimen in a cooler, surrounded by ice.
Minnesota’s loon population is about 12,000 birds, numbers which appear stable, according to Pam Perry, DNR nongame wildlife specialist and the loon watcher coordinator.
“Past studies on the common loon were limited to looking for mercury contamination,” Perry said in a DNR media release. “This effort will help answer questions about why loons die. Is it trauma, mercury, lead, disease, or effects from the Gulf oil spill?”
If some of these causes are preventable, the DNR hopes to develop strategies to reduce loon mortality.
More information about general guidelines for safe handling of wild birds is available online. For more information or to locate the DNR office, call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free at 888-646-6367.