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Montana loon count up,
but fewer return to breed


Montana Loon
Society Annual Meeting
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
October 15, 1998

The Montana Loon Society held their annual meeting on Saturday, September 19 in Polson to review the year's work regarding the management and preservation of the Common Loon in Montana. Each year on the third weekend in July, volunteers around the state count the number of loons on their area lakes. This year 218 loons were counted on 72 lakes. This is the first year that the count has gone over 200 since the census began in 1986. "This number included 175 adult loons and 43 chicks," reported Lynn Kelly, MLS President. Kelly has been a leader of the state's loon management program for 13 years. She implements and conducts Montana's program for monitoring and protecting nesting loons. "This was a great year for loons in Glacier National Park," Kelly continued. Glacier Park historically has only produced three to four chicks each year, but this year produced 14.

This good news is tempered with the recent findings from the latest ongoing national study on North American loons, in which 1470 loons have been banded from Alaska to Maine. Montana has taken part in this study by banding 11 adult loons and 10 chicks. Research has found that the Common loon doesn't breed until the age of seven and only 20 to 30 percent of all chicks survive to return to their natal lake. "Since Montana typically produces 30-35 chicks a year, this means only 10-12 will be able to return to Montana to breed," Kelly stated. She finds this new data sobering and feels that the implications point to the need for continued vigilance in the use of floating signs, education, research and pro-active management in the face of exponentially increasing recreational pressures and shoreline development on nesting lakes.

As well as discuss the needs of Montana's loons, the MLS gives out two awards each year. This year's Volunteer of the Year Award went to John and Linda Winnie of Kila for their activism around the Rogers Lake area. This year they represented the MLS at the Conservation Round Table in Kalispell, spearheaded support for no-wake regulations on the Thompson Chain of Lakes and published the MLS newsletter.

The MLS Partner's Award wen to Pat Dolan, a wildlife biologist for the Lolo National Forest. She wrote "The Common Loon in the Northern Region: Biology and Management Recommendations" in 1994, then digitized the locations of the loon lakes in Montana into the GIS (Geographical Information System) so range maps could be shared with loon researchers around the country. Finally, she standardized and computerized 11 years of loon day data so that it could be readily available for resource manager to use. Kelly states, "These contributions are absolutely invaluable to loon management and education" and thanks these award winners for their dedication.

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