Kris Andrews is hoping boaters will be more mindful after she heard constant alarmed loon calls in the waters between Scout Island and North Lakeside last Sunday.
At around 11:30 a.m. she rushed to see what was causing the alarm calls and observed a motor boat with people cruising inside the bay between Scout Island and North Lake side pump house.
“I saw a loon frantically half running half flying all around the area of the boat making frantic calls and coming up vertical out of the water and paddling furiously with its feet in a distress alarm display when protecting young,” she said.
This went on for more than five minutes when the boat finally moved out past the island and sped off, Andrews said.
“I was relieved to later see two adult loons with two chicks in the bay safe and sound. But as I left Scout Island about one hour later, walking down the causeway I heard loon calls again and saw the same boat cruising toward the loon family.”
Andrews said harassing loon parents can expose chicks to predation and unnecessary stress.
“It would be like putting your baby in a pram on your lawn only to look out the window and find a family of bears on the lawn trying to get a closer look to your baby. That wouldn’t be very nice for you. It isn’t nice for loon families either.”
Fred McMechan with the Williams Lake Field Naturalists is a full-time volunteer at Scout Island.
He explained that there is a Loon Alert sign posted at the dock for the very concerns Andrews raised.
“It’s put out by Bird Studies Canada and outlines concerns about proper behaviour when being around loons,” McMechan said. “People probably don’t read it, but it’s there.”
Loons are an endangered species and boaters can cause difficulties for loons when they are raising their young, he added.
Sgt. Len Butler with the Conservation Officer Services said under the Wildlife Act and Migratory Bird act, any harassment of wildlife is a concern.
“Sometimes birds and their young are hard to pick up when you’re travelling across the lake, but if people are actively pursuing them with a boat and seen chasing them down, then definitely people should call the Report All Poachers and Pollutants (RAPP) line,” Butler said.
Andrews said what she witnessed Sunday was probably not done intentionally or maliciously, but more out of ignorance than anything.
“The loons nest in this bay every summer and rear the young on the outer edge of the bay between Scout Island and North Lakeside until the young are old enough to feed themselves then they go out further into the lake,” Andrews said.
Another pair usually nests in the marsh area west of the causeway as well. They rear their young in the bay between Scout Island and South Lakeside, she added.
“I’m not sure if both pairs have been successful this year,” Andrews said. “Often they are not successful. Something happens to the eggs. Crows or eagles get the chicks or some other predator, or the water levels or wind wreck their flimsy nests and the eggs get washed out of the nest.”
n nest.” Andrews said.