This year, several organizations have reported an earlier and busier season of avian botulism.
And with that busy season, Jeff Lange of Alanson, a local coordinator of the Michigan Loon Watch, asks those who come across dead or dying loons to check whether the loons have leg bands.
Loons could have two bands: one a silver band from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and one a colored band with symbols or alpha-numeric codes.
Lange said that a male and female pair of loons and two generations of their chicks have been banded on Round Lake in Emmet County, and will likely spend time along the Lake Michigan shoreline, which makes them vulnerable to ingesting the botulism toxin.
He thinks the loons are eating toxin-infested round gobies.
"It really has made me nervous because it started earlier this year, in late August or early September," he said. "The season always starts when loons are migrating through in big numbers, and are congregated in shallow water. There are always young loons who will take the easy fish, and there are just loads of gobies. They gorge on them."
Lange also reminds people that loons found beached but still alive should be reported immediately, and that loons not affected too severely can be treated and released.
If you find loon, dead or alive, contact Jeff Lange at (231) 548-3918. Otherwise, contact Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council at (231) 347-1181, or your local Department of Natural Resources operations services center.