Wildlife News

Swans are flying into the marshes

More than 22,000 counted on Nov. 5

In just eight days, the number of tundra swans in Utah more than tripled.

Want to catch lots of burbot? Visit Flaming Gorge in the fall.

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 by Phil Douglass, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

On Oct. 28, more than 6,600 swans were spotted during a survey Blair Stringham flew over marshes on the northeastern shore of Great Salt Lake.

Eight days later, on Nov. 5, the number of swans had jumped to more than 22,200.

"If you drew a Utah swan hunting permit," says Stringham, migratory game bird coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, "now is the perfect time to head to the marsh. The fall migration is underway."

The DWR usually flies its weekly swan surveys on Tuesday mornings. You can keep track of the swans online.

Utah's swan hunting season ends Dec. 8.

Bear River Refuge is a good choice

To protect trumpeter swans, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Utah Wildlife Board have closed some areas to swan hunting. The closed area includes all of Utah north of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and north of Forest Street (the road leading from Brigham City to the refuge).

Most of the swans Stringham saw on the morning of Nov. 5 were in the closed area. However, plenty of swans were also spotted on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

Most of the swans on the refuge — more than 8,000 — were spotted on Unit 1. Unit 1 is a rest area that's closed to hunting. But when swans leave the unit, they often fly over areas at the refuge that are open to hunting.

If you visit the refuge, please remember that Bear River is a federal refuge. Some of the rules at the refuge are different than rules at areas managed by the state.

More information is available on pages 20 and 21 of the 2013–2014 Utah Waterfowl Guidebook. You can get the free guidebook at wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks.

Hunting tips

If you're one of the 2,000 hunters who drew a swan permit, Stringham 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.

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.

Three factors — hunting pressure, changes in the weather and the availability of food — can change a swan's flight pattern, though.

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 or its head 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. 7, 2014. The questionnaire must be completed, even if you don't hunt swans or take a swan.

    You can access the questionnaire online. You can also complete it 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 2014.

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