Environmental Conservation Police issued tickets to two people for charges related to harassing and harming common loons this summer, and they are in the process of investigating a third incident.
The most recent incident occurred on July 21 when a 16-year-old Tupper Lake male allegedly targeted two adult loons and three juvenile loons with a personal watercraft on Raquette Pond, making several passes over the loons.
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 in the incident, according to the DEC.
There have been several alleged incidents this summer of people harassing loons like this one, spotted on Grass Pond in the St. Regis Canoe Area in June.
(Enterprise file photo — Mike Lynch)
The Tupper Lake male was charged with illegally taking protected wildlife, a violation of Environmental Conservation Law. In addition, he was charged with three violations of navigation law: operating an unregistered vessel, operating a personal watercraft without a boater safety certificate and operating a personal watercraft without a fire extinguisher.
The DEC said six different parties witnessed the youth operating the personal watercraft in the vicinity of the loons.
He faces a possible maximum fine of $250 for the Environmental Conservation Law violation and possible total maximum fines of $650 for the three Navigation Law violations. The tickets are answerable in Tupper Lake Town Court.
In addition to violating state Environmental Conservation Law, intentional harassment of loons is also illegal under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and carries a possible maximum fine and penalty of $5,000 and a six-month jail sentence under federal laws.
In another incident that occurred on June 12, the BioDiversity Research Institute's Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation witnessed two young boys approach a loon nest and frightening off the adult loon on 6th Lake of the Fulton Chain, in Inlet, according to the DEC.
One of the boys allegedly struck the nest with a canoe paddle, breaking one of the eggs. A DEC officer responded, and located the two boys, ages 13 and 14, at a nearby private camp.
After interviewing the boys and their guardian, the guardian was ticketed for destroying the nest of a protected bird. The case has been referred to the Hamilton County District Attorney. The maximum possible penalty for this violation is $250 and 15 days in jail. The remaining loon egg did successfully hatch, DEC officials said.
In a third incident that took place on July 12, the DEC received a complaint of boaters harassing nesting loons on Raquette Lake in Hamilton County.
Although it was first reported that the eggs in this nest were also destroyed, the officer's investigation determined that the eggs were still intact. Two eggs from the nest did successfully hatch, but the incident remains under investigation.
The DEC is continuing to investigate incidences of boaters harassing loons and encourages residents and visitors to take steps to avoid disturbing nests and habitat.
The common loon, with its unique summer plumage, distinctive red eyes and haunting calls are protected under state and federal laws. The federal Migratory Bird Act protects all migratory birds, including their eggs, nests and feathers. The loon is also designated as a Species of Special Concern in New York state.
Among the significant threats to loons are nesting habitat loss from lakeshore development and disturbance from boating, recreational and other human activities.
The Biodiversity Research Institute's Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation provides tips to people who share lakes with loons to better protect them.
Minimize Human Disturbance:
Please observe loons at a distance of at least 500 feet. Binoculars and cameras with long lenses help.
Observe "no wake" zones and speed limits.
When paddling a canoe or kayak, keep away from the shoreline to avoid flushing a loon off its nest.
Report harassment of loons to the DEC TIPP Hotline: 1-800-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332) or by e-mail to R5dsptch@gw.dec.state.ny.us.
Fish responsibly by using non-lead fishing tackle and pick up abandoned fishing line.
Avoid loud noises during the breeding season.