By John Henricksson

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When it zeros in on the group of merganser chicks feeding in the rocks near shore, it submerges, kicks forward, and speeds underwater toward its target. It grabs a chick's feet and holds it down until it drowns. Not a very neighborly thing to do, but protecting its food supply is critical, and the laws of the wild are immutable. The common loon is nature's ultimate showman, an avian Liberace, who knows how to press all our but- F I R S T C I T I Z E N OF MINNESOTA 25 tons. It sings, it dances, it preens and flounces around on its beautiful stage in its gorgeous costume.

According to Basil Johnston in Ojibwe Hertiage, when an Ojibwe hunter killed a bear, he made gifts to its spirit and prayed: 10 MOST L I K E A MAN I had need, I have dispossessed you of beauty, grace, and life, I have sundered your spirit from its worldly frame. No more will you run in freedom Because of my need. And I shall not want. What a long journey it has been for Muckwa, the black bear, from the pantheon of the gods to the garbage pile. The black bear is pretty laid back and slow moving, which probably accounts in part for its longevity.

Julie held the canoe steady while I climbed out and crawled along the trunk to take a closer look. It was a young loon, very likely the twin of the one killed by the eagle. But how had it died? I examined the bird very closely; there wasn't a drop of blood, a wound, or any evidence of injury. I talked later with several experienced local birders about the dead loon, but no one seemed to have an answer. I went up to Saganaga to talk with an old friend who had been observing loons for many years to see if he might shed any light on the puzzle.

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