This article was originally published by Tim Callery on https://www.wmur.com.
A new push is being made to protect New Hampshire’s loons from being poisoned by lead fishing tackle.
A new buyback program is aimed at increasing the loon population. State wildlife officials said loons are threatened in New Hampshire, and lead sinkers and jigs are dangerous to the birds.
John Cooley, a biologist with the Loon Preservation Committee, said loons are an iconic part of New Hampshire.
“I think if you hear a loon calling in the evening when you’re on the lake just once when you’re 8 years old, you’ll remember it the rest of your life,” he said.
But there are only a little more than 300 pairs living in the Granite State. Cooley said the population has taken a hit because of fishing tackle made of lead.
“It’s the No. 1 cause of mortality we see in the New Hampshire loon population,” Cooley said. “If a loon ingests lead tackle, it’s going to cause lead poisoning in the loon, and as far as we know, it will kill it within two to four weeks.”
Legislation was passed in 2016 to address the problem.
“Lead tackle, sinkers and jigs of one ounce or less, there’s a ban on sale and freshwater use in New Hampshire,” said Sheridan Brown, of the Loon Preservation Committee. “That’s the toughest standard in the nation.”
But officials said lead tackle is still being used. The Loom Preservation Committee is taking its efforts a step further through a tackle buyback program.
AJ’s Bait and Tackle in Meredith is one of nine locations where people can return the gear for a voucher.
“They fill out their name and address, and it’s valued at $10 for anything in this store,” owner Alan Nute said.
Cooley said the efforts to protect the loons can pay off.
“Loons are a wildlife species where we can really make a difference,” he said.