Loon seeks help and thanks fishermen who saved it
The following is a reprint of an article published in The Timberjay newspaper June 3:
Fishermen say loon sought help, offered thanks, by Marshall Helmberger
A Lake Vermilion loon that faced a grim death from starvation is now on the mend thanks to the actions of two local fishermen.
Jim Anderson and Bruce Erickson had been fishing from the dock of Anderson’s Bass Bay cabin late last week when they noticed a loon that seemed distressed. It held its head in an odd way and seemed unable to dive for more than a few seconds at a time.
But the bird was always too far away for them to see exactly what the problem was.
That is, until last Sunday night – when the loon came to Anderson’s dock and asked for help. At least that’s how Anderson and Erickson interpreted the remarkable event.
“We’d been watching him for days and could see he had a problem. But then on Sunday, he came right up to the dock and just looked at us. He wasn’t ten feet from us, ” said Erickson, a retired police chief from Apple Valley.
“It was weird,” agreed Anderson. “They’ll come close to a boat sometimes, but I’ve never seen one come that close to a dock before like that. I don’t know what other explanation there’d be for him coming so close.”
Up close, the two men could see the bird’s problem. It had a fish hook lodged in its breast and the tip of the bird’s bill was caught in the sap on the attached swivel. That not only meant the bird couldn’t open its mouth, it meant it couldn’t raise its head without pulling on the hook lodged in its flesh.
“He was in real trouble,” said Anderson, who said he couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about the loon and its obvious suffering. While he had tried to catch the bird that evening, it had swum away when Anderson had approached with a landing net.
But by next morning, the two men had decided to make another effort, this time in a boat. After some effort, a few hundred feet from their dock, they were finally able to net the bird, which was in a somewhat weakened condition from its inability to feed.
But once netted, the bird was anything but lethargic.
“I didn’t know a loon could scream like that,” said Anderson, “but he was screaming.” Even so, the two men were able to hold the bird long enough to cut the barb from the hook and remove it. At the same time, they removed the swivel snap from the bird’s bill.
Removed from loon
Seconds later, they released the bird back to the water.
While the bird might normally be expected to flee from the scene once released, the two men were shocked to see that by the time they got back to the dock, the loon was floating nearby, as if waiting for them.
“We laughed like hell,” said Erickson.
So had the loon come back to say thanks?
“You bet he was thanking us,” said Erickson.
“I don’t know what else to think of it,” agreed Anderson.
Last the two men saw, the loon was back in deeper water and it appeared it would survive its ordeal. “He was diving just fine when we left,” said Anderson.