Harassing loons

The common loon is an icon of the North Woods, a symbol of wilderness, and sometimes the object of harassment.

Common loon with chick. Photo by Larry Master.
Common loon with chick. Photo by Larry Master.

On June 12, two teenage boys frightened a loon off its nest on Sixth Lake, in Inlet, and struck the nest with a canoe paddle, breaking an egg, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. DEC  ticketed the boys’ guardian for destroying the nest of a protected bird—on the theory that the guardian must answer for the boys’ actions. The maximum penalty is a $250 fine and fifteen days in jail.

The good news is that the remaining egg in the nest hatched.

On July 21, a teenage boy ski was seen harassing two adult loons and three juvenile birds by buzzing them with a jet-ski on Raquette Pond, part of Tupper Lake, according to DEC. “Loons, and especially young loons, have limited capacity to repeatedly dive below the surface to avoid such boating harassment, and it is unknown if any loons were injured or killed,” the agency said in a news release. The boy was charged with illegally taking protected wildlife and several violations of state Navigation Law. The fines could add up to as much as $900.

In a third incident, DEC received a complaint on July 12 that boaters were harassing nesting loons on Raquette Lake. Although two eggs from the nest eventually hatched, DEC is investigating the incident.

In other loon news, DEC yesterday rescued an adult bird that was sitting in a roadway in Arietta in Hamilton County (loons need to take flight from water). Environmental Conservation Officer Peter Buswell and Lt. Harold Barber bundled the loon in a raincoat and transported it to North Country Wild Care in Warrensburg for rehabilitation.

Although its population has increased in recent decades, the common loon remains a species of special concern in New York State. Wildlife Conservation Society recently completed its annual loon census in the Adirondacks. The data are still being analyzed.

Click here to read DEC’s news release on the loon incidents.

DEC news release

About Phil Brown

Phil Brown edited the Adirondack Explorer from 1999 until his retirement in 2018. He continues to explore the park and to write for the publication and website.

Reader Interactions


  1. Gerald (Jerry) S. Lazarczyk says

    What took the DEC so long to get involved??? These protected birds have been harassed for years as professed on various birders lists. People brag about repeatedly sneaking up on birds and nests to get that perfect picture. The use of kayaks to harass birds is pitiful. But various boats are used including some very high powered varieties. How can the birds possibly escape them?

    Jerry Lazarczyk

    Grand Island NY

  2. Stephen Puliafico says

    I am an open minded person and can chalk a lot of things up to “being a kid” or just plain old being stupid. Harassing Loons on the other hand I just don’t understand. Where is the sport or fun in harassing these birds? Where are these behaviors learned and how do we stop them is the real question here.

  3. diana teta says

    yes, there is something dramatically wrong with the younger generation. Ayouth was arrested for torturting a snapping turtle,

    cats and dogs are tortured and need rescue, someone broke into a vet’s facililty and

    killed the caged animals. They also, descrete cementaries, write graffetti on any conceivable surface, knock over fences, destroy mailboxes and thelist is endless.

    Do parents accept this behavior as typical

    teenager. If you confront them, they are agressive, deny accountability and responsiblity and you are the one verbally attacked.

    Myabe it’s the lack of parental involvment and discipline in their upbringing or maybe

    with all the choas in our society we are producing a generation of character disorders.

  4. Benjamin says

    I’m a member of the “younger generation,” and while I think it’s not necessarily fair to make blanket statements supported by only a relatively small number of individuals (@diana), I’m appalled that people, especially my peers, regularly stoop to this level.

  5. Ellen says

    Harassing any wildlife is ignorant and obnoxious, but I do want to say something in support of the “younger generation”. I am 63, but I remember when I was a teen, hating it when we were all painted with the same brush. There are idiots of all ages.

  6. smjennings says

    there flat out is no excuse for this sort of behavior …

    Fining really is not the answer… The authorities need to be really involved…and these young humans needed to spend some serious hours learning to be stewards of our beloved woods…So DEC instead of writing a ticket, take these humans with you and educate them..Pick them up at 5am at their private camp from their cozy LL Bean blanket and educate them

    Like Grampa give them a pointed stick to de-litter the trails..Have them bury a fawn killed on the road..or untangle monofilament line from a duckling…EDUCATE…money means nothing they have that Compassion they don’t

  7. Harvey44 says

    The act of harassing loons is on a par with assaulting the elderly. This story is a tragedy at every level. I agree with SP … it is hard to imagine the environment where this behavior is learned.

  8. Solidago says

    As the first incident makes clear, the problem is with paddlers. Just kidding Phil.

    There have been jacka**es since time immemorial and there will be until we go extinct. I’m glad that the DEC is aggressively investigating and prosecuting these incidents, and they are getting publicity. Hopefully this will help deter future incidents, and the jacka**es will find other ways to be jacka**es.

  9. Ellen says

    This behavior is simply appalling! Throw these kids in jail and give ’em the maximum fine (which is not nearly enough, in my opinion). No excuses.

  10. Paul says

    I agree with the education comment. You can’t fine away this type of behavior. I lay much of the blame at the feet of the parents. Just the fact that that one kids parents would allow him or her to be out in an unregistered jet ski, without the proper license is very telling. No surprise that this kid is turning out to be an idiot. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

  11. Paul says

    Solidago, your comment may not be so tongue in cheek. Dave Winchell (the spokesperson for the DEC) said on NCPR that it is “often canoers and kayakers that are more likely to harass loons, particularly loons on their nests” (albeit unintentional in some cases, my words). Again I think education is key. It is pretty difficult to stay 500 feet away from a loon nest that you do not know is there when you are paddling through a pond like Bog Pond (in the St. Regis Canoe Area). The whole pond is only a few hundred feet wide at some of its wider spots.

  12. Paul says

    Also, it is interesting I am seeing loons more often nesting on lakes that have motorboats. I don’t know if this is due to the increase in population and pressure for good nesting sites. I always assumed that large boat waves were detrimental to loon nests but I see loon chicks on some of the busiest lakes these days.

  13. Solidago says

    Paul, that’s an interesting point regarding canoeists and kayakers. Here’s a snippet from the NCPR piece – http://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/story/16070/dec-steps-up-loon-protection

    But he says on average people on motorboats and jet skis are not the usual culprits. Sometimes it’s loon-lovers: “It’s often canoers and kayakers that are more likely to harass loons, particularly loons on their nest. Mainly because loons nest on the shallows by the shore and motorboats can’t get into those areas. In some cases, obviously not in these, but people may just be curious and want to approach the loon. But this is not good for the loon or its eggs on the nest,” said Winchell.

    I know I’ve personally had some unintentional close calls with nesting loons and loons with chicks while paddling or rowing, which I wish hadn’t happened.

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