An injured loon that was found on the shore of Marancook Lake earlier this month was shot and died from a related infection, according to the Maine Warden Service.

Loons are a protected species and whoever shot it will face criminal charges, Warden Steve Allarie said. The service is seeking the public’s help.

Allarie said the injured loon was discovered on the shore July 18 off Lazy Loon Drive. The bird, which died from an infection related to the wound shortly after it was found, was shot by a shotgun about three to six months ago.

It is a crime to kill or harass loons, Allarie said.

“I would love to say I have a suspect, or even a person of interest, but I don’t,” he said.

The warden said when the loon was first discovered, he thought it was the victim of mercury poisoning, but X-rays proved otherwise.

“It was obvious this bird received an injury due to a shotgun blast,” Allarie said. “You could see some of the shot pellets.”

The male loon was double-banded, which means it was weighed and monitored over the past several years, Allarie said. The bird was caught and weighed as part of a routine survey in 2011. The loon was originally from Mooselookmeguntic Lake in the Rangeley area.

Allarie said the bird was 15 years old – loons can live as long as 25 years – and was in good health other than the respiratory infection caused by the gunshot wound.

Tests revealed the bird’s health deteriorated in the months after it was shot. Allarie believes the shooting likely took place on the Readfield side of Maranacook.

“I can’t tell you where it came from, but I suspect this loon didn’t go far,” he said.

Allarie said anyone who enjoys the outdoors enjoys seeing loons, and their distinctive, mournful call is universally beloved.

“Everyone knows what a loon is and knows what they sound like,” Allarie said. “It’s sad to see someone would do something like this.”

Allarie is hoping someone with information on the shooting will call the Warden Service tip line at 800-253-7887 or click on the Operation Game Thief link on service’s website (maine.gov/ifw/warden_service). Tips can be left anonymously, though there is a potential reward for information that leads to a conviction, Allarie said.

Craig Crosby can be contacted at 621-5642, or at:

ccrosby@mainetoday.com