SUNDAY, JUNE 21, 2009

Yocum Lake loon family missing

Wildlife officials suspect poaching

A family of common loons has disappeared from Yocum Lake in Pend Oreille County, prompting an investigation and a $1,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of anyone involved.

Loons, known for their yodeling call, are a rare species in Washington, with nesting pairs known to be on only seven lakes, said Dana Base, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist in Colville.

Base said department staffers photographed the breeding pair on May 20 and other officers reported seeing one chick earlier this month.

“But now they’re gone,” Base said Saturday. “We’re investigating a tip that someone was bragging about killing the loons. We’re all but certain at this time that foul play was involved.”

The female has been nesting at the Newport-area lake with at least two different mates since 2001, said Virginia Gumm, a photographer who’s been monitoring and researching loons in northeastern Washington for more than a decade.

“This incident may result in Yocum Lake becoming vacant as a common loon nesting territory for some time or even permanently,” she said.

After wakes from powerboats were documented to be flooding the low-lying loon nest site, Pend Oreille County officials recently banned the use of internal combustion engines on the 47-acre lake.

“This is a possible motive for this despicable, malicious act,” Gumm said, noting that some lake users had been angered by the new rule.

The rule also helps protect the lake from bigger boats that are more likely to bring in milfoil and other invasive species, Base said.

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