Wisconsin ice storm causes migrating loons to be "encased in ice," fall from sky "like rocks"

A crash-landed loon rehabs in a Wisconsin bathtub.

A crash-landed loon rehabs in a Wisconsin bathtub.

Image you're a migrating loon headed north for the summer. All of the sudden, you find yourself thinking what the hell? as you fly into a nasty, unseasonal ice storm. And next thing you know, you wake up in some random human's bathtub.

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That's the fate that befell some of the more than 50 loons who tried to fly through a nasty ice storm late last week but ended up freezing in midair.

[jump] Marge Gibson, the boss at the Raptor Education Group in Antigo, Wisconsin, told MPR that the storm "encased loons in ice as they were migrating... They fell like rocks from the sky."

Since the storm, Gibson's organization has rescued and released about 50 of the fallen loons. Others are rehabbing in bathtubs (for video of one rehabilitation effort, click here). But the problem in northern Wisconsin, as in some areas here in Minnesota, is that a very cold spring means many lakes are still frozen and hence inhospitable to loons.

"Once on dry land, loons become sitting ducks," the Antigo Daily Journal explains. "They need a long stretch of water to become airborne and a parking lot, field, ditch, small pond or retention basin doesn't do the trick." Icy lakes means those long stretches of open water aren't available, leaving loons vulnerable to predation and struggling to find their own food.

So next time you're about to bitch about having to scrape ice off your car in April, keep in mind how much it would suck to freeze while flying, crash land in some sort of arctic spring wasteland, and not know whether you'd be able to find another meal before something turned you into lunch.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]