By Bill Hudson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) —  The sight and sound is endearing — symbolizing our love affair with lakes. By last count, some 12,000 loons make Minnesota home.

“We’re not concerned about loons as a population level at this point,” explains Lori Naumann, with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

But the DNR’s Nongame Wildlife spokesperson says the agency is concerned over recent deaths on Minnesota’s iron range. She describes the deaths as an occurrence and not an outbreak.

Testing by the University of Minnesota’s Veterinary Diagnostics lab in St. Paul confirmed that three loons died after contracting West Nile virus.

“We will be keeping track of those reports so we have an idea of where the exact locations are, what lakes these are at and in case there’s any other sort of issues going on with loons other than West Nile,” said Naumann.

At Roseville’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, they’ve treated five loons so far this summer. However, none were symptomatic of the virus.

“West Nile comes through every season right at this time,” explains the clinic’s medical director, Renee Schott, DVM.

Dr. Renee Schott says the virus affects species differently.

“Some species are going to have a very full reaction, they are going to have high virus levels in the blood, they can pass it to each other, some species have low virus levels and may not pass it to each other but they may still die,” said Dr. Schott.

Loons and crows are more susceptible to West Nile Virus. That’s because they are less able to develop the antibodies which fight off the infection.

“West Nile is here every year so we should all be careful,” added Dr. Schott.

And be on the watch for the first signs of sick and dying birds.

Lake homeowners and other lake users who observe two or more dead loons on a single lake with no obvious injury or cause of death are asked to email the nearest DNR nongame wildlife staff for tracking:

Bemidji/Northwest area: Christine Herwig,

Grand Rapids/Northeast area: Gaea Crozier,

Metro/Central Minnesota: Lori Naumann,

New Ulm/Southern Minnesota: Lisa Gelvin-Innvaer,

Bill Hudson