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N.H. Volunteers Count Loons

Concord — Volunteers took to New Hampshire’s lakes on Saturday morning to count loons in an annual tally of the threatened species.

Biologists hope to have the tally on the state’s loon population by month’s end.

Just a week past prime hatching season, loon aficionados were out Saturday morning to conduct the annual count.

The mid-season count gives Loon Preservation Committee biologists a snapshot of how the threatened species is faring.

The committee works to restore and maintain the state’s loon population, which has risen from 100 pairs of nesting loons in 1975 to more than 500 in recent years.

Similar loon counts took place in Maine and Vermont.

Maine’s loon population is estimated at about 3,000, the highest count in the Northeast. Vermont has an estimated 280 adult loons, which is double what it had a decade ago.

Loons are a threatened species in New Hampshire and are protected by state and federal laws from hunting or harassment.

The preservation committee says 49 percent of adult loons die as a result of ingesting lead fishing tackle.

Gov. Maggie Hassan earlier this month signed into law a bill that will ban lead sinkers in 2016. The law will prohibit the use of lead-weighted hooks known as jigs that weigh an ounce or less. Current law prohibits lead jigs that are an inch long or less.