April 17, 2008
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is looking for about two dozen volunteers to help monitor the loon population in Becker and Otter Tail counties in northwestern Minnesota between June 27 and July 7.
The DNR, with the assistance of hundreds of volunteer observers, has gathered information about common loon numbers on more than 600 lakes distributed among six regions, or “index areas,” for the past 15 years.
“This monitoring effort has been very successful,” explained DNR Nongame Wildlife Specialist Katie Haws. “We’ve found that loon productivity (based on the number of chicks hatched) is quite stable in the region. Both Becker and Otter Tail counties have stable occupancy and productivity trends, with Becker having higher loon nesting densities.”
The survey also offers a unique opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, while helping Minnesota’s state bird. The results allow the DNR to detect long-term changes in loon population health.
Volunteers are assigned a specific area lake to survey. Many of the lakes are small enough to be surveyed from shore, while others require the use of a boat or canoe.
“Given current development pressures, it is vital that we continue to monitor loon populations in the area to detect any potential problems,” Haws said.
Surveyors count the number of adult and juvenile loons seen on their assigned lake on one morning and record their observations on a data form. The entire survey can be conducted with a time commitment of just several hours during one day.
People interested in being a volunteer loon surveyor should contact Katie Haws at (218) 308-2641 or by e-mail Katie.Haws@dnr.state.mn.us.