Wildlife preservation at heart of ongoing welding project

November 10, 2014

Lyle Laske - Big Mantrap Loon Nesting Program

The Big Mantrap Lake Loon Nesting Program members are most grateful to the Welding Department at St. Cloud Technical & Community College and its faculty members past and present. St. Cloud Technical & Community College and its students contribute directly to the welfare of the Minnesota state bird. 

Even before our lake association’s founding in 1956, individuals and groups invested time and money on the preservation of natural resources addressing such issues as water levels, weeds, fish propagation, wildlife, the public access and safe and courteous use of water vehicles. As shoreline development reduces loon nesting habitat, nest rafts are crucial for adaptable loons. 

Big Mantrap Lake is 1556 acres in size, with more than 21 miles of irregular shoreline, including five islands and many bays and coves. Nineteen loon nesting territories have been identified.  At this time 18-19 nesting pairs use the lake, with half using natural nests and the other half using manufactured nests. 

The Big Mantrap Lake Loon Nesting Program began in 1990 with rafts based on the Minnesota DNR WOODWORKING FOR WILDLIFE model. Our raft fabrication materials have shifted from wood to plastic and now aluminum.  Lightweight aluminum nesting rafts best suit the needs of our lake because of the number of rafts needed and the seven mile length of the lake. Two rafts with anchors and buoys can be hauled in and out of a 14 foot boat.  

Loon nesting rafts are set immediately the day the ice goes out and removed three weeks after the loon chicks hatch. The rafts are removed so that the natural beauty of the lake is not impaired. Refurbishing the nests, setting them out, and removing them, requires the efforts of a number of volunteers.

Each year, the SCTCC Welding Department makes nesting rafts with improved engineering design for our lake association. A year ago, a powerful storm broke the hand-anchor connection in two places. This year, a heavier handle was used, and the rafts withstood wind gusts of 40 mph. While the raft – and its 28-pound anchor – was dragged 10 feet, the connection held firm. 

This summer, the U.S. Geological Survey will return to Big Mantrap Lake to capture two tagged loons and download data from their migration to the Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean and home again. We cherish our Minnesota state bird and are grateful to SCTCC, its students, retired instructor Duane Petterson, and current instructors Eric McAllister and Chuck Haus for allowing our loon population to find a safe, comfortable nesting space on Big Mantrap Lake. 

For more information, visit the Loon Nesting Program website.

Kate Wallace
Posted in Alumni, welding