During mid-September, the Division of Wildlife Resources will release about 4,000 chukar partridge throughout Utah. The adult, pen-reared birds will be released as part of a continued effort to provide more hunting opportunity for Utah's upland game sportsmen.
Since the closing of the DWR's last game farm in 1993, many Utah upland game hunters have expressed interest in seeing some of their license funds used to propagate game birds for release into the wild for hunting. The DWR started limited releases of chukar partridge again in 1997.
The DWR is not operating a game farm of its own, as it had until1993. Instead, birds for release this September were grown by a Utah game bird produce and purchased under contract by the DWR.
Chukars will be released into areas in Utah where the DWR has constructed new game bird water guzzlers using habitat authorization funds, and areas where chukar populations have been depressed because of severe drought or winter conditions.
Over the past several years, the DWR has constructed hundreds of new 350-gallon game bird and small mammal guzzlers in the best chukar habitat in Utah's desert country. Guzzlers have been installed on many west desert mountain ranges, from the Utah-Idaho border to the Mohave Desert of Washington County, in the very southwestern corner of the state.
The new guzzler design allows the watering devices to be placed in the roughest, rockiest, cheatgrass-infested habitats Utah has to offer, which is ideal for the chukar partridge.
The new guzzlers are placed in long narrow canyons with steep, rocky slopes, which provide good escape cover for chukars. Complexes of four to six guzzlers are built about one mile apart in an area. Biologists then move down the mountain range a couple of miles and build another guzzler complex.
The idea behind the guzzler construction scheme is to place water where birds would normally look for water, and to provide enough water in an area so birds can move from day to day to forage and still be in close proximity to drinking water.
Pen-reared chukars will be released in the following areas of Utah in mid-September.
Carbon County; Farnum and Gordon Creek wildlife management area.
Emery; Ferron Canyon.
A portion of the chukars that will be released this fall will be banded with aluminum leg bands. Hunters who harvest banded birds should phone information into the DWR at the telephone number printed on the band.
Information collected from band returns will be used by biologists to assess released bird returns to the hunter's bag, survival information and dispersion of birds into preferred habitats.
Because of safety concerns for potentially overcrowding areas with hunters, and because of the sensitivity of the location of guzzler sites being used by wildlife, the DWR will not provide maps of guzzler site locations or more specific release information than listed above.
A map depicting guzzler distribution and densities throughout Utah can be found on the DWR upland game web page at www.wildlife.utah.gov/pdf/guzzlermap.pdf.
Chukars are an exotic bird, 15 inches in length and weighing 20 ounces. They are native to places like India and Afghanistan in the Middle East. The chukar partridge inhabits some of the most inhospitable habitat Utah has to offer. They are found in the barren desert areas of the state and prefer steep, rocky, arid slopes.
Low growing shrubs such as sagebrush, saltbush and cheatgrass vegetative zones, below the juniper tree belt, seem to be preferred. Talus and rocky slopes provide chukars with concealment as well as escape cover. Foods consist of grass seeds, weed seeds, buds, flowers and in the winter, new growth cheat grass. Male and female chukars are mostly identical in appearance, except that male birds will often have a "button-like" spur on the back of the leg.
Utah's 2002 chukar season opens Sept. 21 and runs through Jan. 31, 2003 in some areas of the state. Both males and females may be hunted. The daily bag limit is five birds, and the possession limit is 10.