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Waterfowl Hunterws: Know Your Target

Know the difference between snow geese and trumpeter swans.

9/20/2017 9:23:59 AM

Pinedale - The waterfowl hunting season in the Pacific Flyway portion of Wyoming (west of the Continental Divide) opens September 23. For the first time in over 30 years, hunters will have the opportunity to take light geese in this part of Wyoming.
 
“Light geese” include snow, blue and Ross’s geese. Although western Wyoming is not a major flyway for light geese, a few snow and Ross’s geese are present and reported during the waterfowl hunting season, especially during or after storm fronts. The light goose hunting season was originally closed during an experimental effort to reintroduce whooping cranes. A trumpeter swan range expansion project was also started about the same time. The experimental whooping crane project ended in the 1990’s and this species is rarely, if ever, reported in Wyoming. However, hunters should expect to encounter trumpeter and occasionally tundra swans throughout the flyway and should be aware these are protected species and cannot be hunted in Wyoming.
 
Several characteristics distinguish trumpeter swans from light geese. Trumpeter swans are much larger, weighing up to 30 pounds, and have a larger wing span of seven to eight feet. They also have much longer necks and larger bodies. The feet and legs of adult swans are black. The wings and body feathers are completely white. Young swans of the year, called cygnets, are light gray with pinkish feet and legs, and weigh less than 20 pounds. Most cygnets remain with their family groups throughout the winter, but occasionally lone cygnets are encountered and could possibly be misidentified by an inexperienced hunter.
 
Snow geese weigh five or six pounds and have a wing span of five feet or less. Their legs and feet are rose-red in color. Other than size, the most distinguishing feature of snow geese is the black wing tip, which is not present in swans. Snow goose calls are also much higher pitched and typically more frequent than those of trumpeter swans. Snow geese typically occur in larger flocks that are often seen feeding in fields, but they can be found resting along major rivers or lakes and ponds, intermingled with other waterfowl including swans.
 
Currently, over 200 trumpeter swans inhabit Wyoming year round and up to 800 swans migrate into western Wyoming from Canada starting in late October. Wyoming’s resident swans nest from north of Jackson as far south as the town of Green River. Concentrations of swans are present on the north end of Fontenelle Reservoir in November until freeze-up and also on the Green River below Fontenelle Dam. Individual swans and family groups could show up anywhere there is open water in the Pacific Flyway.
 
Information on hunting seasons, flyway maps and waterfowl identification can be found in the 2017 Migratory Game Bird Hunting Seasons booklet, available on the Wyoming Game and Fish Department website wgfd.wyo.gov or at any Game and Fish regional office. The Jackson Regional Office phone number is 1-800-423-4113 (in state) or 307-733-2321. The Green River Regional Office phone number is 1-800-843-8096 (in state) or 307-875-3223.

(mark.gocke@wyo.gov)

- WGFD -

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