Volunteers needed in Itasca, Lake and Cook counties for DNR loon survey

(Released June 10, 2014)

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is seeking volunteers to help monitor the loon population in Itasca, Lake and Cook counties in northeastern Minnesota. Volunteers are needed for one day during the June 27 through July 7 monitoring period.

For the past 20 years, with the assistance of hundreds of volunteer observers, the DNR has gathered information about common loon numbers on more than 600 lakes distributed among six regions, or “index areas,” throughout the state.

“The survey offers a unique opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while being part of a team that monitors the health and welfare of Minnesota’s state bird,” said Gaea Crozier, DNR northeast region nongame specialist. “The results allow the DNR to detect long-term changes in loon population health and help assess impacts of events like the gulf oil spill and ongoing lakeshore development.”

Volunteers can choose one (or more) of the following lakes to count the number of adult and juvenile loons seen and report these observations to the DNR for data analysis. The time commitment is two to four hours per lake. Surveys must be done between 5 a.m.-noon on one day during the monitoring period.

Volunteers must commit to completing one or more assigned lakes and consider participating in the program for multiple years. Surveys can be conducted from shore on smaller lakes, or by boat or canoe on larger lakes. DNR will provide detailed instructions, training materials, maps and a data form.

The survey wouldn’t be possible without volunteers, Crozier said. “I’d like to thank all of our current volunteers and hope they consider helping us again with this important survey by giving another morning to the loons,” she said.

Volunteers are needed on the following lakes:

Itasca County: Baldy, Brush Shanty, Big Dick, Burns, Crooked, East Smith, Forest, Gunn, Hole in Wall, Little Dick, Little Horn, Little Ranier, Little Smith, Moon, No Mans, Orange, Pear, Pickerel, Pine, Plantation, Plum, Pughole, Ranier, Sand, South Smith, Spider, Sunrise, Three Island and West Smith.

Lake County:  Bone, Green Wing, Organ and Sister.

Cook County:  Cascade, Little Cascade and Mit.

People interested should contact Sarah Verke, northeast region, at 218-999-7808 or sarah.verke@state.mn.us; or Gaea Crozier at 218-327-4267 or gaea.crozier@state.mn.us.

For more information on Minnesota’s loon monitoring program, visit www.mndnr.gov/eco/nongame/projects. For information about common loons, visit www.mndnr.gov/birds.

The Minnesota loon monitoring program is supported with donations to the nongame wildlife check-off on Minnesota’s tax forms.