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Rescuers raise concerns over loon injuries in Oneida County

A loon was photographed with a hook and swivel lodged in its head on a lake in Oneida County.
Katie Thoresen
A loon was photographed with a hook and swivel lodged in its head on a lake in Oneida County.

Kevin Grenzer has been rescuing sick and injured loons for about 10 years now.

He’ll safely capture them and bring them to the Raptor Education Group, Inc., or REGI, in Antigo for recovery.

He’s used to seeing loons sick with lead poisoning or ones caught in fishing line.

But in all those year’s he’s never seen anything like this.

“We have never, ever seen a loon hooked in head right by the ear,” said Grenzer.

Grenzer believes there are three loons, with similar injuries found on three lakes in close proximity in Northern Oneida County.

“These are all three, distinct, different loons. We can tell that by first of all, the hooks are different, they’re body markings are different,” he said.

Genzer believes the type and timing of the injuries and the close proximity of the lakes make it unlikely to be coincidence or even an accident. He says the loons have been spotted on North Buffalo, Dorothy, and Little Bass lakes between Lake Tomahawk and St. Germain.

“We’re wondering if these loons were on a nest, and somebody was casting at them and the other thing that’s really weird about this whole situation is usually when you find a hooked loon. They’re always trailing some fishing line. None of these have fishing line trailing or even wrapped around knots at all. It’s very, very odd,” said Grenzer.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is concerned about the health of the loons, though it believes, based on the photos it’s seen, there is only one injured loon.

WXPR spoke with DNR Conservation Warden Tim Ebert about the reports.

Ebert says while there’s no evidence to suggest the wound in this case is intentional, he does encourage people to report anyone who is intentionally harassing wildlife to the DNR Tip Line at 1-800-847-9367.

It’s what Grenzer hopes someone will do in this case.

Grenzer has made several attempts to safely catch one of the loons he’s seen and get it REGI to remove the hook.

He’s not yet been successful and says he likely won’t be unless the loon starts to weaken.

Grenzer says the hooks likely won’t hurt the loon’s ability to swim but could impact their diving or breeding.

“These are our loons. They’re not my loons. They’re not your loons. These are our loons. People are hurting our natural resources. This is why people come to the Northwoods or live in the Northwoods is because of the loons and the wildlife. If someone is taking that away from us, they’re stealing from all of us,” said Grenzer.

In Wisconsin, you could face a civil forfeiture citation for harassing wildlife. Ebert says the fine is typically around $300 but can be up to $1,000.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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