Last week, Vermont’s independent news voice, Seven Days, featured an article about “Vermont’s Loon-atic,” Eric Hanson. For 15 years, Hanson has been the coordinator of the Vermont Loon Recovery Project, a program of the the Vermont Center for Ecostudies in cooperation with the VT Fish and Wildlife Department. He also moonlights (sometimes quite literally) as a wintertime groomer at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.
Hanson, 46, has an extensive history in the study of the rare 14-pound birds, whose calls are the quintessential summer sound effect on the shores of Big Hosmer Pond. While earning a graduate degree in Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota, he coordinated loon data from 600 lake studies and established a volunteer-based loon monitoring program for Minnesota’s 12,000 loons. Since 1998, when Hanson started working on the Vermont Loon Recovery Project, the status of loons in this state has become increasingly stable.
In the early 1980’s, there were only seven documented breeding pairs in Vermont, and in 1987, loons were added to Vermont’s endangered species list. Around that time, the conservation efforts of the VLRP picked up, focusing on increasing the survival rate of loon-chicks. Due in large part to the VLRP’s efforts, the loon was removed from the endangered species list in 2005. This year’s recorded loon population is 283, up from only 29 birds thirty years ago, and Vermont’s loon-chick survival rate is the highest in North America.
Seven Days‘ article includes an interview with Hanson that you can read, here. Hanson serves on the Advisory Committee of the Hosmer Ponds Watershed Initiative and regularly offers talks to Craftsbury community members and guests at the Outdoor Center.