Weather Forecast


River Falls woman leads group rescue of injured loon

Tammi Larson, wildlife specialist, and Harvey Halvorsen of the Wisconsin DNR’s Baldwin Office, work to free a loon from a fishing lure stuck in its cheek. The loon was found at the end of August by Mary Roen and some friends who had been at Perch Lake in Hudson for a picnic. (Submitted photos)1 / 3
Harvey Halvorsen holds up part of the lure that had been stuck in the cheek of a loon. With the lure are four sinkers. If the loon had swallowed them, it could have given the loon a potentially lethal dose of lead poisoning, according to Mary Roen of River Falls, who helped rescue the loon. Submitted photo.2 / 3
Would-be rescuers got into canoes to search Perch Lake for a loon with a fishing lure stuck in its cheek. From left Harvey Halvorsen of the Wisconsin DNR, wildlife specialist Tammi Larson and Ruth Hilfiker. Submitted photo.3 / 3

HUDSON, Wis. -- Mary Roen and two friends were enjoying a picnic at Perch Lake in Hudson when they spotted a loon behaving oddly.

The bird was throwing its head back and forth.

Roen said a look through binoculars showed the loon’s beak was wrapped in fishing line and a lure appeared to be stuck in its cheek.

Roen and her friends, “…sprang into action,” Roen said, “calling every agency we could think of to rescue this beautiful bird from certain death.”

Harvey Halvorsen of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Baldwin office and Tamara Larson of Tammi’s Wildlife Rescue & Wellness Center in Frederick headed up the rescue mission.

They formed a plan to search for the loon the next day, the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. A group met at dusk to find and rescue the suffering loon.

Halvorsen, Larson and Halvorsen’s wife Ruth Hilfiker took a canoe around the lake.

Roen, from the town of Troy, said she and other volunteers used kayaks and worked with Halvorsen and Nelson to form a semicircle around the loon and encourage it to swim into shallower waters, where Larson would be able to safely capture the loon.

It took several tries, but Larson was successful.

Roen said she and the other volunteers held back shouts of joy, so as not to frighten the bird. A group of onlookers around the lake did cheer, Roen said.

Working together, Larson and Halvorsen quickly cut away the fishing line and the lure, which had four lead sinkers attached. Roen said those sinkers, if the bird had swallowed them, could have caused fatal lead poisoning.

Once Larson had cleaned the puncture wound where the lure had gone through the loon’s cheek, the bird was released.

“He took a couple of paddle strokes, stretched out his wings, gave a beautiful tremolo call,” Roen said, “which, to us, meant ‘Thanks for helping me, but now leave me alone!’ It was all the thanks we needed.”

Roen said she was impressed by the number of people willing to give up part of their Labor Day weekend to rescue the loon.

“People are so busy with their electronic lifestyles that one bird or animal barely reaches their consciousness,” Roen said. “That people would drop what they had planned and drive as far as some of them did to rescue this one bird, speaks of a true love of nature and commitment to make a difference.”

For her part, Roen said helping to rescue the loon was an experience she will never forget.

I am enthralled with nature -- birds, animals, plants, trees,” Roen said. “Species are becoming endangered or extinct right now because of loss of habitat and human development. If I can do anything to help even one loon, it makes me feel like I have made a difference in the natural world.”

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

(715) 426-1048