Good news, hunters — it looks like the number of chukar partridge in Utah is up this fall.
On Aug. 31, Division of Wildlife Resources Biologist Tom Becker flew a helicopter survey over the Cedar Mountains in central Tooele County. He found an average of 18 chukars per square mile.
While 18 chukars per square mile is nowhere near the boom year of 2006 — when Becker found 97 chukars per square mile — it's a big jump from the four chukars per square mile he spotted last year.
And researchers from Brigham Young University are confirming what Becker found — chukar numbers in the west desert appear to be up this year, especially from Nephi south through Iron County.
Utah's 2011–2012 chukar and Hungarian partridge hunt starts Sept. 24.
Why the increase?
Justin Dolling, upland game and migratory game bird coordinator for the DWR, says the moisture Utah received earlier this year is the reason chukar numbers are up. "The moisture allowed the plants to grow," he says, "and that led to lots of insects being produced."
Dolling says insects are important to newly hatched chukars. "Insects are the primary item the chicks eat," he says.
In addition to seeing more birds, Dolling says the BYU researchers are seeing chicks that were born at different times this past spring. "Chukars are persistent at nesting," he says. "If the habitat conditions are good, but a pair isn't successful the first time it nests, the birds will usually nest again."
Attempting to nest more than one time increases the chance that the chukar pair will hatch and raise a brood of chicks. "Chukars usually lay between eight and 16 eggs," Dolling says, "so a single pair of chukars can raise a lot of birds."
Dolling says what researchers and biologists are seeing definitely indicates a positive, upward trend for chukars in many parts of Utah. "The amount of moisture the state receives next spring will determine whether the trend continues," he says.
Click here to see survey results >>