Yesterday, we received a report of an adult female on the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage who swallowed a fishing lure with multiple hooks on it. The bird was severely wounded, was captured, and has been taken by a wildlife rehabber to see if it can be saved surgically. However, this is a longshot. Although this female was apparently not a territorial bird, her sad situation reminds me of the many territorial adults — important chick producers which help support the population — who die fishing-related deaths each year. Loons are rather poor colonizers of lakes. That is, a pair develops a strong bond with a territory and often produces many chicks there. If the pair dies, especially the male, who is in charge of nest placement for each breeding attempt, a territory can fall into disuse or be settled by a new male that is a klutz in nesting and is not able to find safe nesting sites. So loss of a successful breeder can have a serious negative impact on local chick production. This is why I mourn each loss of a territorial breeder to an avoidable death from a fishing lure or lead sinker. Recent deaths that have hurt chick production in the study area have occurred on Squash, Hildebrand and Carrol Lakes.
Now, I am a fisherman myself. I have always enjoyed throwing a lure in the water. Angling will always be a rich and important part of recreational life in Wisconsin. But, like me, please: 1) try to be careful not to fish when loons are nearby, and 2) replace your lead sinkers with alternatives like tin, steel, tungsten or granite (yes….granite!).