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Couple saves loon frozen in ice

During a recent cold snap, a young loon was frozen in the ice between Turtle Lake and Movil Lake. Jane and Andy Freeman were able to free the bird and send it to a rehabilitation center in the Twin Cities. Submitted Photo1 / 2
Andy Freeman wore waders and a helmet to rescue a loon trapped in lake ice. The helmet was for protection in case the 8.5-pound bird pecked at him. Submitted Photo2 / 2

A young loon owes its life to the care and concern of Jane and Andy Freeman.

The bird had been frozen into the ice near the Beltrami County Road 22 bridge between Turtle Lake and Movil Lake.

Jane said she had been watching a pair of juvenile loons during the summer because they weren't learning to fly. They could dive well enough, but they would scoot along the water, flapping but never achieving liftoff. Her theory is that their parents died and weren't around to teach them to fly.

Then, when the ice froze, one of the birds was attacked by a pair of eagles, fighting them off from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. before the eagles killed it. The remaining loon stayed in a small piece of open water under the bridge until that, too, froze.

Jane said she checked the loon at 8 a.m. on Dec. 10, and it seemed fine.

"I started monitoring the bridge, going down every two hours around the clock," she aid.

Later in the day, she knew the bird was in terrible trouble.

"I could see ice forming in his feathers," she said. "He was trying to pick it out, and I was crying."

Jane called her husband, Andy. He donned waders and a helmet, because had heard the birds might peck in their panic. They went together down to the bridge. Andy waded out to the bird and Jane slid a hammer across the ice to him. Andy was able to crack the ice imprisoning the loon, all the while keeping his hands under the bird to prevent it from diving or dropping through the hole.

At that point, Ryan Rogers showed up and stopped to help. Jane had a cage, and Rogers slid the bird in.

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota accepted the loon for examination and treatment, and it was flown to the Twin Cities from the Bemidji Regional Airport on a Delta air link.

Jane said she contacted Phil Jenni, executive director of the rehab center.

Jenni said he X-rayed the bird and found nothing wrong with the wings.

"He's stable but guarded in his prognosis," he said.

Jenni said he doesn't know why the bird couldn't fly, but they should learn instinctively and not need to be taught by parents.

"They sent me pictures," Jane said. "He has a little bathtub with a net over it. They're feeding him fish."

When the bird seems to be recovered, she said Jenni plans to send it via plane to a rehab center on the Gulf of Mexico.

"They just go in a little car carrier, and it'll go cargo," she said.

"If it recovers soon enough, we'll try to catch the migration," Jenni said. He said there are loons in southern Minnesota and Wisconsin that have not flown south yet.

"The best thing is to release it to an existing flock," he said. Otherwise it will be flown by plane.

He also said that the rehab center has had many birds that have been rescued and were able to migrate successfully back north in the spring.

Jane said she knows wildlife officials don't want to interfere with the life and death of the natural world.

"Isn't it natural for humans to feel compassion?" Jenni said.

Jane said she would like people to adopt a more kind-hearted attitude.

"If they're perfectly healthy, I think we, as citizens of the world, it's our duty to step in and intervene," she said. "We're just on a high because I've been watching that bird for so long."