Nesting Swans Delay Access to Some Sand Creek Ponds

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The continued nesting success of trumpeter swans at the Sand Creek Wildlife Management Area in the Upper Snake Region will once again delay access to portions of the area until July 1.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has restricted fishing and public access to Ponds 4 and 2 in the main pond complex.

“Access is being restricted because the nesting swans are generally intolerant of disturbance by humans, especially with younger pairs or nests established in areas of low human activity,” area manager Josh Rydalch said.

This is the 15th year that Fish and Game has closed these spots that are otherwise popular on the opening weekend of fishing season.

“Without the closures, the chances are good that human disturbance would cause the swans to abandon their nests, resulting in a loss of production for the year,” Rydalch said.

Concern for successful nesting of trumpeter swans is great because the birds are a priority species under the “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” designation in Idaho. This listing means that they get as much protection as necessary to promote successful reproduction. Past closures have proven successful and have helped trumpeter swan population numbers rebound from their lowest point in a half century.

In 1996, Sand Creek Wildlife Management Area had three of the 12 active nests in the Upper Snake Region – the entire state of Idaho had only 21 – and produced eight of 31 cygnets hatched in the Upper Snake – only 51 hatched in the entire state that year.

For unknown reasons, however, only one of the eight cygnets survived to flight stage, which illustrates how delicate the process of trumpeter swan production is.

Sand Creek is the only wildlife management area in the state to host nesting trumpeter swans. Last year’s drought resulted in decreased nesting activity, and only two pairs of swans even attempted to nest. Only one pair was successful, hatching three cygnets. Of these three, two fledged and migrated.

The cooperation of anglers at Sand Creek will help to ensure the success of recovery efforts. The remainder of the area is open to the public, and anglers are still invited to enjoy fishing at Ponds 1, 3, and Blue Creek Reservoir; Pond 1 is low because of a leak that is being repaired.

In preparation for the upcoming fishing season biologists have been reviewing stocking options.

“As it stands, we are looking at fingerlings across the board, but not to worry, though, as Blue Creek Pond, and Ponds 1 and 4 have good carryover from year to year, and will likely provide a good fishery this year,” regional fisheries manager Dan Garren said. “In the future we will be stocking Ponds 2 and 3 with catchables, but that won’t happen until next year, as the hatcheries need a year to produce a good-sized fish.”