MONMOUTH — Monmouth firefighters rescued an iced-in loon Sunday afternoon in an area of the Tacoma Lakes.

Fire Chief Dan Roy said such a rescue was “unique,” happening when a bird becomes trapped in open water that is surrounded by ice. A loon typically needs at least 100 feet for a “runway,” and since the bird was iced in, it did not have room to take off.

Don Fournier, a volunteer transporter for the nonprofit Avian Haven of Freedom, said he had kept an eye on the loon for five days, and contacted the Monmouth Fire Department to see if it could help with the bird’s rescue.

“We’ve rescued people,” Roy said, “but never a loon.”

Fournier said he had seen iced-in loons before, but never was involved in their rescue.

Information from Avian Haven shows that when there are mild temperatures during winter, bodies of water can take a while to freeze, sometimes well into January. Iced-in loons are usually seen in the first couple weeks of January.

Bill Hanson, left, holds a loon with Lt. Luke Boucher of the Monmouth Fire Department after the bird was rescued Sunday afternoon from Tacoma Lake in Monmouth. Contributed photo

The loon was about a quarter-mile out, so retrieving the bird was difficult, according to rescuers. Roy said the rescue occurred in the Sand Pond area of the Tacoma Lakes, off Chipmunk Lane on the Monmouth side.

The ice was 4 or 5 inches thick, a couple of ice fishermen told Roy.

“One of our firefighter lieutenants, Luke Boucher, fell through,” Roy said. “Once he went in, he was in the water with the bird. The bird never dove under water. He (Boucher) used the net to scoop the bird and get under the ice.”

It took the team about two hours to get the bird. The Fire Department was assisted by Bill Hanson of the Biodiversity Research Institute of Portland.

Diane Winn, co-founder of Avian Haven, said the bird weighed a little more than 9 pounds. She and other s were not sure certain Sunday of the loon’s gender.

Winn said no one in Maine rescues loons regularly, but there are operations in New Hampshire and Vermont that provide such services.

Winn said there were at least a half-dozen loons Sunday about which rescuers had concerns, but the one in Monmouth was the only one rescued.

Roy said the call helped rescuers with their ice training, including rescuing a person who had fallen through the ice, because “it would be no different.”

He also said it served as a good reminder that the ice is still fairly thin, especially with rain in recent days.


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