Volunteers packed their kayaks, canoes and boats July 18 for the Wisconsin Loon Population Survey which is conducted once every five years on selected lakes in Wisconsin. 

Volunteers who conduct the survey were assigned a lake near their residence or they selected a lake they wanted to survey from the list of available lakes in the state.

The selected lakes were surveyed between 5 and 10 a.m. on the preselected date for a minimum of 30 minutes, with volunteers taking note of all loons on their selected lake during the time of their survey.

Adult loons, as well as loon chicks, were noted and reported to LoonWatch, a program of the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute at Northland College in Ashland.

The survey is vital to assessing the effectiveness of current conservation efforts with the loon population in the state. The one-day survey of 258 preselected lakes in northern Wisconsin will be used to estimate the loons’ state-wide population and breeding success.

The best places in Wisconsin to hear the wild calls of the common loon can be found in Vilas, Oneida, Iron and Forest counties.

Volunteers with Proj­ect LoonWatch say the latest population survey, done in 2015, showed that up to 30% of the state’s loon population resided on lakes in these four counties — an area blessed with the heaviest concentration of clean, fishable lakes in Wisconsin.

It is these lakes that not only attract tens of thousands of fishermen and vacationers each year, but also one of nature’s top fish-catchers, the common loon.

Loons once nested on lakes all over Wisconsin, but now are mostly confined to the upper third of the state.

According to the 2015 survey results, the adult loon population was estimated at 4,350, an increase of 9.1% from 2010, and the chick population was estimated at 834, an increase of 37.8%.