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Cambridge family recounts 'heartwarming' loon rescue

Dec 11, 2021 04:35AM ● By Editor

Photo: The Burton Family via KARE 11 News

By Samantha Fischer of KARE 11 News - December 10, 2021

A family in Cambridge is sharing a story so wild, some might say you'd have to be crazy as a loon to believe it.

Jake Burton says on Thursday evening he took a walk down to Skogman Lake with his wife Erin and their two kids Carter and Keira, in what he describes as a usual family outing. 

As the family walked along, Burton said his family looked down the shoreline and saw something quite unusual: a young loon seemingly trapped in a shallow pool of open water.

"It was sounding distressed," Burton said. "It just kept diving and swimming back up."

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, loons typically travel to the Atlantic coast for the winter, making this loon's December appearance quite uncommon.

"This is really, really late for it to be here," Burton said.

The family stayed on shore for awhile and continued to watch the juvenile loon, while daughter Keira mimicked its call.

"I was thinking, 'What was going to happen to it?'" Burton said. "As I was walking back home, I was thinking it didn't have enough water to take off."

Burton was right. According to the National Wildlife Federation loons need a long "runway" to take off for flight due to their heavy bodies, and can only do it from water. By Burton's calculations of the small pool, it didn't appear the young loon was going to make it.

Burton's wife Erin, who he describes as an animal lover, was so concerned about the bird that she began calling around to several wildlife organizations and rescues, including the Minnesota DNR. After multiple attempts to reach someone after-hours, Erin was finally able to connect with a loon rescue run by a couple in Wisconsin. They told Erin their Twin Cities contact wasn't able to get there but if she was comfortable with it, they'd talk her through what to do next. 

"They told us they wouldn't be able to make it tonight (Thursday), and asked if we would go rescue the bird and hold it overnight," Burton said. "We said sure, and we geared up with a fishing net, and rope, and waders and lights."

Photo credit: Burton family

The woman from the loon rescue group, Linda Grenzer, gave her guidance.

"I told them my family and I would do all we could," Erin said.

The Burtons made their way back down to the lake, with 11-year-old Keira tasked with holding a spotlight while Jake went in with the net.

"The fisherman were out there looking at me like I was crazy," Burton said.

Jake said the bird started to panic, going in and out of the water, but eventually they were able to get the bird into a bucket and under a sheet to calm it down as they made the journey home. 

The Burtons housed the loon in their basement overnight, planning to deliver it to a wildlife rescue Friday.

Photo credit: Burton family

"Loons bring us so much joy in the summer," Erin said. "It's the least we could do."

"We are happy to help. It was a heartwarming night," she added.

And if you're wondering what it would be like to have Minnesota's state bird in your basement?

"It was really crazy to have a loon in your house making those noises," Jake Burton said.

To see the original article and read related stories, follow this link to the KARE 11 News website.