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Lead-Poisoned Loon Found In Alton Bay

Courtesy: New Hampshire Fish and Game

  A loon has been found dead in Alton Bay with a piece of lead fishing tackle in its gizzard.

According to the Loon Preservation Committee, every year between seven and eleven loons are killed by lead fishing tackle. The one found in Alton Bay is this year’s first.

“The majority of the lead deaths we get are in July and August, and that corresponds exactly with peak lake use and peak fishing,” says Harry Vogel, Senior Biologist with the Committee.

Vogel says fewer than a dozen loons killed per year may not seem like a lot, but in New Hampshire, this accounts for nearly half of loon deaths. Since loons only have a few chicks per year and adults might not breed until they are six or seven years old, anything killing large numbers of adults can have an effect on the population.

Officials are hopeful that after this summer the number of loons killed by lead tackle may finally begin to fall. The legislature passed a ban on certain lead fishing tackle in 2013, but it doesn’t go into effect until next summer.

“So any sinkers or jigs that are one ounce or less will need to be made of something other than lead,” says Vogel, before listing a few of the possibilities, “Tungsten, steel, tin, bismuth,”

In its annual count, committee volunteers found 289 breeding pairs of loons in the state last year.

Sam Evans-Brown has been working for New Hampshire Public Radio since 2010, when he began as a freelancer. He shifted gears in 2016 and began producing Outside/In, a podcast and radio show about “the natural world and how we use it.” His work has won him several awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow awards, one national Murrow, and the Overseas Press Club of America's award for best environmental reporting in any medium. He studied Politics and Spanish at Bates College, and before reporting was variously employed as a Spanish teacher, farmer, bicycle mechanic, ski coach, research assistant, a wilderness trip leader and a technical supporter.
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