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Swans are flying into the marshes

More than 14,600 tundra swans were counted on October 30.

Tundra swans are visiting some new areas as they migrate into Utah this fall.

A tundra swan flying

Tundra swans are migrating through Utah in big numbers. If you drew a swan hunting permit for this fall's hunt, now's the time to head to the marshes.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

For years, the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge west of Brigham City has been "the" place to go to take or see a swan in the fall. And that hasn't changed. The refuge is still a great spot to hunt and view swans.

But when Blair Stringham flew a survey on Oct. 30, the refuge wasn't the only marsh area along the eastern shore of Great Salt Lake where he saw swans. He spotted decent numbers of birds as far south as private duck clubs in Davis and Salt Lake counties.

"Sago pondweed is the main plant swans eat while they're in Utah," says Stringham, migratory game bird coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "Both the Bear River Refuge and the Willard Spur south of the refuge were dry earlier this year, and neither area produced the amount of pondweed it usually does. I think the swans are on the move, looking for pondweed."

The DWR usually flies its weekly swan surveys on Tuesday mornings. You can see where the swans are by visiting the DWR's website.

More than 14,600 swans

During the Oct. 30 flight, Stringham counted 14,690 swans. He says that number could double — to as many as 40,000 swans — in just a week or two.

"If you drew a swan hunting permit for this fall," he says, "now is a great time to grab your gun and head to the marsh."

Stringham reminds you that the Bear River Refuge is a federal refuge, and it has some rules that are different from rules at marshes managed by the state. You can learn more on pages 20 and 21 of the 2012 – 2013 Utah Waterfowl Guidebook.

The free guidebook is available on our guidebooks page.

Utah's swan hunting season ends Dec. 9. A total of 2,000 hunters drew a swan hunting permit earlier this fall. The 2,000 hunters are the only hunters who can hunt swans.

Hunting tips

If you're one of the hunters who drew a permit, Stringham 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. However, three factors — hunting pressure, changes in the weather and the availability of food — can change a swan's flight pattern.

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, Stringham reminds you that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Utah Wildlife Board have 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. These requirements help the DWR and the USFWS obtain an accurate count of the number of trumpeter swans that hunters accidentally take:

  • 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 complete a harvest questionnaire no later than Jan. 8, 2013. The questionnaire must be completed, even if you don't hunt swans or take a swan.

    You can access 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 meet several additional requirements — including paying a $50 late fee and completing the swan orientation course again — before you can apply for a swan permit in 2013.

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