Weather Forecast


Minnesota seeks volunteers to count loons, Will help track effects of 2010 oil spill

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is sponsoring a voluntary loon survey and is recruiting volunteers to provide details about loon habitat and behavior. Special to The Forum

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. - Volunteers could help Minnesota officials track effects of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill on their state bird.

Amy Childers has helped track the common loon for the past three years.

"They're unique and beautiful, and to me, it represents the wildness of Minnesota," said the DNR outreach specialist. "I think it's something special I can do to help."

The Minnesota Loon Monitoring Program originally started in 1994.

Katie Haws, northwest region nongame specialist, said the program is designed to monitor the loons' health over the long term.

"It's to calculate statistics on the number of young that the adults prepare on each lake and the number of loons on each lake," Haws said. "It is quantitative, but it's not a state-wide thing."

This year in particular, Haws said officials are looking to study the impact of the oil spill in the Gulf, where loons spend their winters.

"There are a lot of environmental threats to loons," Haws said.

Childers said officials are always questioning whether or not the population of the endangered species is increasing or decreasing.

"If it's declining because of human impact, it's important to see that trend and be able to hopefully make changes and help their habitat," she said.

The survey, which is conducted almost entirely by volunteers, will be done between July 1 and July 11.

Haws said volunteers pick one or more lakes to survey and spend an hour or two counting the number of loons seen there; this is done either by boat or on land, depending on the size of the lake.

Currently, nearly 20 lakes are still available to be counted.

"We do have an instruction sheet, and we're always available to answer questions," Haws said about the process.

After the count is completed, volunteers can send the paper form with information to the Minnesota De­partment of Natural Re­sources.

Childers, who usually brings her two children along, said she recommends it to anyone interested in the subject.

"It's valuable for them to see that it's important to see how the loons are doing, especially now with the oil spill," she said. "I'm curious to see the impact."

More information

* For more information, go to Minnesota loon monitoring program" link.

* To volunteer, call Katie Haws at (218) 308-2641 or email

Readers can reach Forum reporter Josie Clarey at (701) 241-5529