Friday, 04 November 2011 11:15
More than 22,700 counted on Nov. 2, 2011
The number of tundra swans is building in marshes along the eastern shore of the Great Salt Lake.
Tundra swans have started migrating through Utah. As many as 40,000 swans could be in the state by the end of November.
Photo by Phil Douglass
Jason Jones counted 22,702 swans during a flight over the marshes on Nov. 2, 2011. That's more than triple the 7,084 he counted during a survey on Oct. 25.
And the number of swans on the marshes could double—to as many as 40,000—in a week or two.
If you drew a swan hunting permit for this fall, Jones, assistant manager of the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area, says now is a great time to grab your gun and head to the marsh.
The DWR usually flies its weekly swan surveys on Tuesday mornings. You can learn where the swans are on our website.
Where the swans are
Most of the swans Jones saw on the morning of Nov. 2 were on Unit 1 at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. He spotted more than 11,200 swans on the unit.
The refuge is about 15 miles west of Brigham City.
Jones says Unit 1 has been set aside as a rest area for the birds, and you can't hunt on it. "But swans that are on the unit make regular flights from the rest area to other areas on the refuge that are open to hunting," he says.
Jones also spotted more than 10,700 swans on the Bear River Duck Club just east of the refuge. The club is privately owned. Only members of the club can hunt on it.
"I think now would be a good time to break out your swan decoys and head to the Bear River Refuge or the Willard Spur," Jones says. "It will take a few weeks before swan hunting picks up on marshes farther to the south, such as Ogden Bay and Farmington Bay."
Jones says the Rainbow Unit at the Harold Crane Waterfowl Management Area can also be a great place to take a swan. "It will probably be a great place to go within a week or so," he says.
Jones reminds you that the federal Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge has some special rules that are different from rules at marshes managed by the state. More information is available on pages 21 and 22 of the 2011–2012 Utah Waterfowl Guidebook.
The free guidebook is available at wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks.
Utah's swan hunting season ends Dec. 11. The 2,000 hunters who drew a swan hunting permit earlier this fall are the only hunters who can hunt swans.
If you're one of the hunters who drew a permit, Jones 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. Three factors that can change a swan's flight pattern, however, 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 will be in the air more, searching for areas that still have open water.
To protect trumpeter swans, Jones reminds you that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has closed all of the areas in Utah north of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and north of Forest Street (the road leading from Brigham City to the refuge) to swan hunting.
Swan hunting reminders
If you drew a swan permit, please remember the following requirements. These requirements 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 return your harvest questionnaire no later than Jan. 10, 2012, even if you don't hunt swans or take a swan.
You can complete the questionnaire online. It can also be completed by calling 1-800-221-0659.
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 2012.
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