Specialists rescue loon trapped in manmade pond

SONOMA, Calif.

WildRescue, a Monterey-based group that specializes in helping animals in precarious situations, freed a loon that was trapped in a pond surrounded by a high chain-link fence in southern Sonoma.

"It put up a good fight," Rebecca Dmytryk, the organization's founder said. "It was getting away from us quite often."

The loon, which is about the size of a chicken, was trapped because the pond wasn't long enough for it to take flight, but WildRescue was able to free it by about 5:30 p.m.

Dmytryk said it was trapped because the birds need about 8 feet to take off, and the fence was too high for the loon to fly over it in the pond's limited space.

She said that five rescuers initially tried out their new "pop-up pen" to catch the loon, but they were unlucky.

"We used a remote control boat to herd it towards the pen," she said. "We tried that for about 45 minutes."

The pen is essentially a cage of plastic tubing and cloth, which crews weighted down under the water in hopes the loon would swim over it. The pen would then be released, float up, and catch the loon.

"It got close to the pen, but it didn't go in," she said.

Eventually, crews used a cloth that was about 70 feet by 8 feet, and cornered the loon until it got out of the pond.

The bird had gotten weak and thin looking after spending four days stuck in the pond, Dmytryk said, so it was taken to the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Fairfield to be examined.

Specialists at the center will give the bird an examination, feed it and release it.

Dmytryk was also working to free seagulls trapped with beer cans that have been cut in half and shoved around the birds' necks.

She said today that WildRescue stopped looking for the gulls in the past month after she no longer heard of sightings.

About five gulls were believed to have the beer cans on their necks. WildRescue freed two, and Dmytryk learned last month that the Peninsula Humane Society in San Mateo had also freed one.

"The other two have either been freed, or they've died," Dmytryk said.

"They've probably been freed," she added.

WildRescue raised about $3,500 and bought a net launcher to catch the gulls, but couldn't use it today to catch the loon, she said. "The net launcher is for land and if you use it for water, it'll drown the bird," she said.

It's a federal crime to put cans on the gulls. According to WildRescue, nearly every wild bird is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The act, implemented in 1918, offers protection of migratory birds from being hunted, kept as pets, or sold. It was first used as a treaty between the U.S. and Britain, but later expanded to include Mexico, Japan and Russia.

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