During a pontoon boat ride Aug. 15 on Long Lake north of Fergus Falls with his wife, daughter and parents, Dan Moen found himself doing one of Minnesota’s state birds a big favor.
The Moens came upon an adolescent loon in distress. Hooked in the bird’s beak and wing was a Rapala lure with two sets of nasty treble (three-pronged) hooks. The young bird was alone and in pain.
“It was really sad,” Dan recalls. “It was wailing, it was almost like it was crying I guess.”
Dan called the Department of Natural Resources for help. The nearest conservation officer was north of Pelican Rapids and agreed to come down but he also asked the Moens if they would feel comfortable trying to help the bird. Dan is a college professor at Minnesota State University Mankato and was just visiting in Otter Tail County. Still, he knew he had to try.
After putting the females ashore, the father-son rescue team returned to the spot in the lake where the loon was circling and unable to fly. The Moens had a big landing net aboard and with the help of a party in another pontoon they were able to corral the frightened bird. The bird dove under the water about 10 times before Dan was able to get it in the net.
After bringing the injured loon on board, Dan’s father cut the treble hooks off the bird and tossed it back into the lake.
“It went in the water, flew a little ways and then you could hear it make a couple of what sounded like a couple of happy loon noises,” Dan said. “ It just really went perfect.”
With no experience rescuing loons the Moens were really surprised everything worked out so well.
“Everyone cheered and it was pretty cool actually,” Dan said. “Man, it really made our day.”
The Mankato man still has the Rapala in his possession. He does not want to make a career out of rescuing loons.
Besides, he already has a job.