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DWR pumps up the number of chukars

During the first two weeks of September, more than 5,000 chukar partridge were released into Utah's wilds by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

They were released as part of a renewed effort to provide additional hunting opportunities for Utah's upland game hunters. Birds were released in many areas of Utah's west desert and the Uintah Basin, where habitat for chukars has been improved.Birds for release will be grown by a Utah game bird producer, purchased under contract by the DWR and released into the wild.

Chukar partridge were the first release. Ring-necked pheasants will be released in late October, prior to hunting season openers.

Chukars were released into areas where the DWR 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.

In the past two years the DWR has constructed more than 60 new 350-gallon game-bird and small-mammal guzzlers in the best chukar habitat of Utah's west desert.

The new guzzler allow the watering devices to be placed in the roughest, rockiest, cheatgrass-infested habitats Utah has to offer - habitat ideal for the chukar partridge.

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.

In addition to the release of pen-reared birds, the DWR is trapping and relocating wild chukars from existing flocks within the state for release in areas where populations have declined and where new guzzlers have been constructed.

Many of the chukars and pheasants that will be released this fall have been 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 bands will be used by biologists to assess released bird returns to the hunter's bag, survival information and dispersion of birds into preferred habitats.

Chukars are an exotic bird, 15 inches long and weighing 20 ounces. They are native to India and Afghanistan.

Chukar partridge 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, below the juniper-tree belt, seem to be preferred.

The 1997 chukar season will run through Jan. 31 in some areas of Utah. Both males and females are hunted, with a bag limit of five birds and a possession limit of 10 birds.