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Montana Loon Society Boater Information
LEAD FREE FOR LOONS! Loons can die from lead poisoning
Click here to view the Montana Lead Free Brochure.

• Use non-lead fishing weights and tackle (now available in many sporting goods stores)
• Dispose of old lead properly
• Wear gloves when handling lead and wash hands thoroughly afterwards
• Children and pregnant women should not handle lead

RESPONSIBLE WATERCRAFT USE and MONTANA’S LOONS
Click here to view the Responsible Watercraft Brochure.

Montana has many treasures, including its beautiful mountain lakes. The common loon, known for its haunting calls and striking black and white breeding plumage, use a number of these lakes for their summer nesting grounds. Watercraft operators are naturally drawn to these lakes and often come into close contact with loons. Responsible watercraft use will help ensure that both humans and loons continue to share Montana’s lakes.

MONTANA’S NESTING LOONS

Of the 65 pairs that attempt to nest, only 24-26 pairs successfully hatch and raise 1 to 2 chicks each year. Nests are usually on small islands in marshy areas such as bays, coves, inlets or backwaters. The nesting season in May and June is the loons’ most critical time. Loons aren’t like ducks and geese that have large broods. Loons only lay 2 eggs, which both parents take turns incubating for 28-29 days.

BOAT TRAFFIC CAN
CAUSE LOSS OF EGGS


Loon parents leave the nest if watercraft come within 150 yards (1.5 football fields) leaving the eggs without warmth or protection.

If disturbed often, loons abandon the nest. A pair may re-nest if it isn’t too late in the season, but they only have time for one more try.

If you see two loons together near an inlet, marshy cove or backwater in May or June, a nest site has probably been disturbed.
NURSURY ROOMS
Loon chicks rest, feed, and grow in and around their territory during the months of June, July, and August. Look for them in backwaters and along the shore.
BOAT TRAFFIC
CAN CAUSE
LOSS OF CHICKS

• Young chicks are not waterproof. They need to be able to climb up on their parents’ backs to stay warm and dry. When watercraft come close parents leave their chicks to defend their territory. This also leaves them vulnerable to predation from eagles or large fish.

• Young chicks are very buoyant. They can’t dive quickly to get out of the way and can be run over.

• Chicks tire easily. The presence of watercraft causes them to keep swimming instead of feeding and resting. This can weaken them affecting their ability to survive.
WAYS WATERCRAFT AFFECT LOONS
Canoes slip quietly into nesting areas and can startle loons off nests. Fishing boats, especially bass and pike anglers, spend lots of time in water perfect for nest sites. Speedboats send waves crashing into the shoreline and can wash eggs from nests.

PLEASE STAY OUTSIDE
THE SIGNED NESTING AREA.


Personal watercraft and motorized boats can speed too close to a foraging loon family and may run over chicks. Loons give a warning when you are too close. Their distress call sounds like a laugh.

It means, “PLEASE MOVE AWAY.” LISTEN FOR AND HEED THIS CALL.

If you see a loon “dancing” by raising its chest straight up out of the water and slapping the water with its wings, it is URGENT THAT YOU MOVE AWAY.
WHAT EVERYONE CAN DO
Enjoy loons from a distance. Listen to their lovely, haunting calls. Enjoy the solitude of Montana. Loons need this solitude to breed and raise their young. If the loons are gone, your solitude might be slipping away too.