Swans Stopping In Utah

No Gravatar

Utah Tundra SwanMore than 28,000 counted on Nov. 3

If you drew a permit to hunt tundra swans in Utah, you may want to grab your gun and head to the marsh.

Tom Aldrich counted 28,271 swans in marshes along the eastern shore of the Great Salt Lake during a survey flown on Nov. 3.

On Oct. 28, he counted 27,361 swans.

“Swans should continue to migrate into Utah this fall, but the storms we’re having could also push some birds out,” says Aldrich, migratory game bird coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources.

“If you have a swan permit, right now is a great time to head to the marsh.”

Where the swans are

Most of the swans Aldrich spotted on the morning and afternoon of Nov. 3 were on Unit one at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. He saw more than 23,000 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 www.wildlife.utah.gov/waterfowl/swan/swansurvey.php.

Utah’s swan hunting season ends Dec. 14. 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 encourages you to 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 up 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 as they search for 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 within 10 days after the season closes, even if you don’t hunt swans or take a swan.

If you don’t do these things, you’ll have to pay a $50 late fee to apply for a swan permit in 2009.

Changes in 2009

Applications for swan hunting permits for 2009 will be accepted next September. Three changes await those who apply next year:

– You and up to three of your family or friends can apply for permits together as a group.

– If you apply for a 2009 swan hunting permit, but you don’t draw one, you’ll receive a preference point. If you apply for a swan permit again in 2010, this point will help ensure that your application is among the first drawn for a permit.

– To give young hunters a better chance at drawing a permit, 15 percent of the swan hunting permits for 2009 will be set aside for hunters who are 15 years of age or younger when the 2009 swan hunt opens.