LINO LAKES, Minn. (WCCO) — As he walks down to the shoreline of his beloved Peltier Lake, Ron Marier can once again smile at the sight of blue herons building their nests. Just off his shoreline sits Peltier Island, and Marier can easily keep tabs on the nesting activity.
“It’s really heartwarming and makes me happy that so many people came together to save them,” said Marier.
In 2005, the island that once was home to the largest heron colony in the Twin Cities was near collapse. That’s devastating news for a city that incorporates the heron’s image on everything from water towers and street signs to letterheads and weather vanes.
“We had to get smarter than the raccoons, because they were figuring out what we were doing. They were like mountain climbers going between the trees,” said the city’s environmental coordinator, Marty Asleson.
Hidden cameras were installed high atop the trees focused on the heron’s nests. Within days the cameras caught the raccoons feasting on heron eggs in the middle of the night.
Since then, teams of volunteers, led by Wayne LeBlanc, spent countless hours wrapping tree trunks with metal flashing. The shiny metal made the colony raccoon proof.
“Back in 2010, we had 50 nests and in 2011 we had 120 nests, so it’s really a great sign,” explained LeBlanc.
Early indications are that herons are also returning to a colony in north Minneapolis, along the Mississippi River that was leveled by the May 2011 tornado.
A bird put on the brink by Mother Nature is on the rebound, thanks in large part to the helping hands of caring volunteers.
“It’s a huge success story, we didn’t know if they were coming back,” LeBlanc added.