Oil spill’s impact on loons, pelicans to be studied in Minnesota

Minnesota wildlife biologists now have the money they need to study the impacts of the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill on the state’s loons and pelicans.

Over the next two years researchers will check loon and pelican eggs, blood and tissue, and even the unusual mating growth knobs on pelican bills that fall off each summer. They’ll be looking for the presence of toxic polyaromatic hydrocarbons, a byproduct of oil, and for potentially toxic Corexit, the dispersant used to treat the oil spill.

The U.S. Geological Survey will implant satellite transmitters and geolocators on several Minnesota loons to document their wintering grounds and foraging depths in the Gulf, where up to 80 percent of the state’s loons spend their winters.

Samples will be taken from loons captured for the study and from any dead loons recovered on Minnesota lakes this summer and next.

“We just got the contract back today, and we hope to be in the field (fitting birds with transmitters) next week,’’ Carol Henderson, DNR nongame wildlife program supervisor, told the News Tribune on Friday.

The project, proposed last winter, received $250,000 when the state Legislature approved budgets during the July special session. The money was approved by the Legislative and Citizens’ Commission on Minnesota Resources from the state’s profits on lottery sales.

Another $47,000 will be used from proceeds of state conservation license plates.

Minnesota wildlife biologists are particularly concerned about the potential long-term effects of the oil spill on common loons because most loons hatched in Minnesota in 2008 and 2009 would have been in the Gulf of Mexico during the catastrophic spill from the BP oil rig. That’s because young loons don’t migrate north until their third year.

And because loons don’t mate until their fifth year, any major impact on one or two consecutive breeding years could have an impact on the total population.

Link (Via: Duluth News Tribune)

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