Friday, November 13, 2009

More than 23,000 Swans stopping in Utah

More than 23,000 tundra swans are in Utah's marshes right now, with more are on the way.

Photo by Phil Douglass

If you drew a permit to hunt tundra swans in Utah, you may want to grab your gun and head to the marsh. More than 23,000 tundra swans are in Utah's marshes right now, with more are on the way.

Tom Aldrich counted 23,606 swans in marshes along the eastern shore of the Great Salt Lake during his latest survey, flown on Nov. 3.

"Swans should continue to migrate into Utah this fall. But there are enough swans in the marshes now that it's great time to head into the marsh to see if you can take one," says Aldrich, migratory game bird coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources.

Where the swans are

Most of the swans Aldrich spotted on the morning of Nov. 3 were on Unit 1 at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. He saw more than 16,000 swans on the unit.

The refuge is about 15 miles west of Brigham City.

"You can't hunt on Unit 1, but the swans that are on the unit may fly over units 2, 1A, 3A and 3B, which are open to hunting," Aldrich says.

The DWR usually flies its weekly swan surveys on Tuesday mornings. You can stay updated on where the swans are by logging onto the DWR's Web site at

Utah's swan hunting season ends Dec. 13. Only those who drew a swan hunting permit earlier this fall can hunt swans.

Hunting tips

If you're one of the 2,000 hunters who drew a permit, Aldrich says you should spend time watching the swans and learning their flight patterns. Tundra swans are very consistent in the times of day they fly and the routes they take. "If you learn these patterns, you'll increase your chance for success," Aldrich says.

Factors that can change a swan's flight pattern include hunting pressure, changes in the weather and the availability of food.

Ice-up is another thing to watch for. As the water starts to freeze, swans fly more in search of areas that still have open water. "Being in the marsh during this time can also increase your chance of taking a swan," Aldrich says.

Aldrich reminds hunters that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has closed all of the areas north of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and north of Forest Street (the road leading from Brigham City to the refuge) to tundra swan hunting.

"The USFWS has restricted tundra swan hunting in this area to try and lessen the number of trumpeter swans that hunters take," Aldrich says. "Compared to tundra swans, trumpeter swans are much less abundant."

Swan hunting reminders

Swan hunters are reminded about requirements that are designed to help the DWR and the USFWS obtain an accurate count of the number of trumpeter swans that are accidentally taken by hunters.

Within 72 hours of taking a swan, you must take your bird to a DWR office, or the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, so it can be examined and measured. You must also return your harvest questionnaire no later than Jan. 11, 2010, even if you don't hunt swans or take a swan.

If you don't do these things, you'll have to do several things—including paying a $50 late fee and completing the swan orientation course again—before you can apply for a swan permit in 2010.

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