Government shutdown causes crowding for Utah fowl hunters

Posted at 8:22 PM, Oct 11, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY – Bird hunting season has just started, but there are already some big changes this year as the government shutdown has made a lot of popular areas off-limits.

Last weekend was the official start to waterfowl hunting season in Utah, but three local, federally-run wildlife refuges are closed due to the shutdown.

The popular migratory bird refuge at Bear River in Box Elder County is among the closed areas. As a result, other state-run areas are seeing higher numbers of people. Hunter Conor Black said that’s less than ideal.

“Well everyone’s usually packed in pretty tight,” he said. “It gets dangerous sometimes.”

Many hunters who would normally go to Bear River were at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area. Mark Hadley, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources spokesman, said the crowds can complicate things.

“Yea, you put hunters onto an area where there isn't quite as much water as there normally would be, and that can cause some challenges with hunters getting a little closer to one another,” he said.

Hadley said the influx of hunters in certain areas means they are keeping busy.

“That's probably the biggest way it’s affected us, you know, we’ve just got more hunters to watch,” he said.

Hadley said the extra bodies ultimately won’t be an issue for the DWR, and he said the local economies near closed areas could be the biggest victims.

“Those same hunters aren't going to Brigham City to buy gasoline or food, so the communities closest to the refuge are probably those most affected by the closings."