Utah will be getting a new family of trumpeter swans in December.
A multi-agency wildlife team, headed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will be attempting to relocate several hundred swans from Harriman State Park on Henry's Fork of the notes Salmon River in Idaho.A sharp decline in the swan's food supply has threatened the survival of swans that return to this wintering area. About a third of the 2,000 wintering population come to Harriman Park.
Last winter more than 700 swans concentrated at the park and exhausted their food supply by early March. This year there is even less food for the swans. Moving the swans this year could avert a potential crisis in 1991.
After trapping the swans in Idaho, 25 of them will be relocated at Fish Springs, a remote refuge in west-central Utah. No swan or goose hunting is allowed at the refuge.
The birds will be dye-marked to distinguish them from tundra swans that are hunted on a limited basis in Utah.
Workers will also try to harass swans that can't be captured to encourage them to leave the park area.
A similar program may have to be started at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Montana if swans exceed carrying capacity.
PARTRIDGES GET NEW HOME - The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources recently released 300 Hungarian partridges northeast of Monticello.
A total of 360 "Huns" have been released this year. Additional releases are planned for 1991 and 1992.
Huns are a rotund, quail-size game bird that adapts well to agricultural areas. The birds are expected to fill a vacant niche created by modification of Monticello's native range into agricultural land.
All birds, banded prior to release, will be monitored by field observation.
The introduction will eventually mean more recreational opportunity for sportsmen.
TOO MANY PREDATORS - In many areas, game officers were surprised at how few pheasants were taken on the hunt two weeks ago. The feeling was that all things considered, hunters should have had better success.
One explanation is an increase in predators.
Common pheasant predators in Utah include owls, hawks, ravens, magpies, coyotes, skunks and badgers, and the newest members, red foxes and raccoons.
Over the past 20 years, many of the predator populations have increased.
Traditional thinking used to be that predators had little chance of suppressing pheasant numbers because the birds could adapt to heavy predation through high reproductive rates. When pheasant numbers were low it was believed predators would prey upon other, more abundant species.
According to Dean Mitchell, DWR upland biologist, "Over the last 33 years, some 28 percent of Utah's pheasant habitat has been lost. This is due primarily to urban and industrial development and changing agricultural practices."
Less cover means higher predation rate. The result was an all-time low pheasant hunt in 1989, and an equally poor hunt this past November.
Recent research suggests that direct mortality and nest destruction by predators is detrimental to pheasants.
In the winter, pheasants are especially vulnerable to predation. Birds are forced to concentrate into remaining scattered cover to survive the elements.
Predators learn that these areas are full of easy prey, because the birds have nowhere to go for cover. In the spring, sparse nesting cover forces hens to use marginal areas where they are exposed to high predation.
Predator control studies have demonstrated that attempting to control one species of predator, gains little in the long-term survival of pheasant populations.
Mitchell pointed out that we don't control predators in Utah, "because it has been demonstrated to be extremely cost prohibitive in terms of gains in pheasant hens and brood survival and returns to the hunters' bag. There are also a variety of social, political, economic and environmental concerns to deal with.
Predators and their effect on Utah's pheasants will be one of the topics to be discussed during a January workshop. Experts in pheasant and land management from across the country are expected to attend the workshop. Public input will be solicited. For information call Mitchell at 538-4788.