Loons and West Nile Virus

This just in from Carrol Henderson from the MN DNR:

West Nile Virus has been discovered as the reason that an entire family of four common loons died on Sandy Lake near Zimmerman, Minnesota in early August.

Local homeowners on the lake had spent a great summer enjoying their first ever family of loons nesting on Sandy Lake. They used an artificial nesting platform that had been placed by Dalton Hoehn and friends. The loons raised two chicks, and by early August the chicks were nearly full-grown. Then on August 6 Dalton noticed that the loons were acting and swimming in a listless, disoriented manner. When he took a boat out to check on the loons they were swimming in small circles, and one could not right itself. Three of the four loons died within a five hour period. Then on August 10, Dalton noticed that the fourth loon, one of the chicks, was acting listless, and it was dead by the next day. Mr. Hoehn notified Jan Welsh who is the Project WILD wildlife education coordinator at the Department of Natural Resources and she picked up the dead loons which had been frozen by Mr. Hoehn. The four loons were referred to Nongame Wildlife Program Supervisor Carrol Henderson who arranged for laboratory analysis. DNR Wildlife pathologist Joe Marcino got results back today that two of the loons he analyzed had died of West Nile Virus. He said that this disease is virulent enough to kill all of the birds in a short period of time.

This is the first time that loons have been documented to die from West Nile Virus in Minnesota. Residents of the Zimmerman area should take precautions to use repellent to reduce the possibility of mosquito bites at this time of year. Residents of other lakes should keep track of their loons to see if this is a problem in other parts of the state and notifiy the DNR if more dead loons are found, according to Carrol Henderson, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program supevisor.