WILTON — A loon with fishing line wrapped around its beak and neck is recovering after being rescued from Wilson Lake on Sunday.

“The loon’s mouth was pretty cut up from the fishing line,” Diane Winn of Avian Haven, a wild bird rehabilitation center in Freedom, said Tuesday. “The first day it could only eat small fish, probably because its mouth was too sore.”

By Tuesday, it was taking full-size fish but remained at the center trying to rebuild its strength. Winn said the loon may not have eaten for as long as a week.

The loon could return to Wilson Lake this week, depending on blood tests, she said.

The loon did not swallow either of the two sinkers attached to the fishing line. One was made of lead, Winn said. If it had swallowed that one, it likely would have been poisoned.

Once the loon arrived at the rehabilitation center, X-rays were taken to see if anything was in the throat or stomach.

“It was very lucky — a miracle loon,” Nancy Prince of Wilton said. “It’s wonderful the loon is on the mend, but it could have been much worse.”

Prince noticed the loon come into the cove near her home on the east shore of the lake Saturday. She didn’t know at that time that Maine Warden Dan Christiansen was called to the lake July 28 because of a loon with a line around its bill, Prince said.

Prince watched the loon preen itself and fluff its feathers. It kept flapping its wings but what bothered her was how the bird kept vigorously shaking its head. She’d never seen that before, she said.

It appeared something was hanging from its mouth, she said. It moved closer to her as she stood on her dock. The loon was lethargic and looked tired. She called the Maine Warden Service and Christiansen told her he had been at the lake Monday and again Saturday morning looking for it.

Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Prince said she called Avian Haven and was told it would be risky for lake residents to attempt a rescue.

Some people did want to try, she said. They took a pontoon boat out and found the loon. The handle of a net was long enough, but the net wasn’t big enough. The stressed loon dove under the water, she said. They decided to wait until morning and put it in the hands of the experts, she said.

When Christiansen arrived, he found the loon and was able to get it into a crate. The loon was taken to Avian Haven.

Lead is a leading cause of death in loons, Friends of Wilson Lake President Wynn Muller said Tuesday. Along with ingesting lead weights, they can also get lead from eating fish that ingest lead. Most lead that can prove fatal weighs less than one ounce, he said.

The Legislature passed a bill prohibiting the use of lead gear by fishermen in 2014 and bans stores from selling lead sinkers and lures starting Sept. 1, 2016, he said.

FOWL members encourage fishermen not to throw their gear into the lake, Prince said. The group has installed a dispenser at the foot of the lake to hold discarded lines and sinkers, Muller said.

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