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Once again, Utah hunters kill too many rare trumpeters swans

Utah’s swan hunt ends 16 days early after 20-trumpeter quota breached.

FILE - In this March 25, 2015, file photo, a pair of trumpeter swans stretch and preen on ice along a channel of open water at Westchester Lagoon in Anchorage, Alaska. No state currently has hunting seasons for trumpeter swans, which have made a comeback in recent decades thanks to efforts to reintroduce them. Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working on a plan aimed at letting hunters shoot them legally in certain states that allow the hunting of tundra swans. (AP Photo/Dan Joling, File)

All Utah swan hunters will likely be required to take a bird-identification course starting next year because too often they are shooting rare trumpeter swans.

For the third year in a row, Utah’s swan hunt came to an early close after the trumpeter harvest breached a 20-bird quota set to limit the hunts impact on trumpeters migrating through Utah from the Yellowstone region.

On Friday, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources recorded the 20th trumpeter death, a threshold that automatically triggering an end to swan hunting for the season. The quota was hit 16 days before the season’s scheduled end of Dec. 12.

Utah is one of nine states that allow the hunting of migratory swans. This year DWR awarded 2,750 permits, allowing the hunter to take one trumpeter swan or one tundra swan, which are smaller and more common than trumpeters. DWR has not yet tallied the total number of swans harvested in this year’s hunt, but the success rare is usually about 40%.

Utah wildlife officials strongly discourage the killing of trumpeters, but they have yet to outlaw the pracice even though some populations are struggling to reestablish their migratory patterns.

In an effort to prevent the swan hunt from closing early in future years, DWR has proposed requiring everyone who applies for a swan hunting permit to complete an online orientation course every year they apply, not just once. The Utah Wildlife Board will vote on the proposal at its Dec. 2 meeting. The course emphasizes swan identification to help hunters distinguish between the two species of swan.

“It gets into swan morphology, sound, behavior, habitat. It’s to educate them to not take trumpeter swans,” said Blair Stringham, DWR’s migratory game bird program coordinator.

At up to 33 pounds, trumpeters are North America’s largest bird, about twice the size of their smaller cousins, and they make a distinctive call that gives them their name. Tundra swans’ curved heads bear a yellow patch on the fleshy part of their black bills near the eyes. Trumpeter heads are blockier and the bills are entirely black.

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