Utah birders want protection for visiting harlequin ducks

December 18, 2011 at 11:39 PM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Some Utah birdwatchers are calling for tighter laws after they say hunters may have killed some rare ducks on Antelope Island.

Robert Mortensen of Bountiful said Utah birders are asking officials to ban hunting on the Antelope Island causeway. They also want a no-hunting buffer of at least 100 yards on both sides of the causeway.

Carl Ingwell of Salt Lake City said birders were buzzing after a female harlequin duck appeared in September on the island in the Great Salt Lake. Other harlequins soon followed, including a male, the Standard-Examiner of Ogden reported (http://bit.ly/sKlJQY).

It was the birds’ seventh documented appearance in Utah. The migratory birds usually spend the winters on the rocky coasts of the Atlantic or Pacific oceans.

But the birds were suddenly gone the day after Thanksgiving. Birdwatchers say the causeway was busy that day with hunters, and they think a hunter fired at the rare ducks.

“The Utah bird watching community now wants to protect this birding gem from hunting,” Mortensen said. “We are not opposed to hunting generally, but there are specific areas that are worth protecting by implementing hunting restrictions.”

Antelope Island State Park Manager Jeremy Shaw said it’s illegal to hunt from the road or shoulder of the causeway, but hunters are allowed to shoot from the rocks that lead from the causeway to the lake — as long as they’re firing away from the road.

Shaw said the causeway is a state road, meaning neither Antelope Island nor Davis County officials have jurisdiction over what happens there.

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officials say birdwatchers can pursue the policy change through five regional advisory councils.