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The Great Salt Lake Is Low, What Does This Mean For Hunting?

Phil Dufrene

Although the Great Salt Lake has been shrinking for years, with the current drought conditions, the lake is at an all time low. How do low water levels impact hunting in the area? (Part 2 of 2)

The following is an unedited transcript.

In addition to winter sports, other outdoor recreation activities are affected by a shrinking Great Salt Lake. Rich Hansen, the manager of the Ogden Bay State Waterfowl Management Area, says hunting may suffer.

“Even though that there wasn't much runoff the last couple of years, we can still at least count on enough water for all of our impoundments. But on a year like this, we have to determine which impoundments are going to be the most important to keep it up at our full pool level and which ones can go dry.”



While water can be moved around the property to improve nesting habitat for ducks and upland game birds, Hansen believes widespread drought will impact hunting all the same.


“I think we're gonna see a pretty big impact the duck population because this drought is all through the West and the Prairie Pothole region. So duck production down all across the country, and we're gonna see a lot of adult birds in the flyway and the migration during the hunt and as a result of that, it's gonna be a lot of wise birds. So hunting is not going to be as good as it has been.”

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, is negatively impacted by the drought and low lake levels as well. 

The refuge has run mostly dry, with water remaining in a few notable areas. Karleen Vollherbst, the visitor services manager at the refuge complex, says when they can be strategic with water placement, visitors can still enjoy the refuge, even during the drought.


“We have a lot of different users that use the units that are within and around the auto tour route. We have birders, photographers, hunters, anglers are using the beginning of our auto tour route. We have cyclists out there, so it's kind of a win-win putting water out there.”

While creating habitat for wildlife is a top priority for the refuge, public enjoyment is also a key part of the refuge’s mission.




Aimee Van Tatenhove is a science reporter at UPR. She spends most of her time interviewing people doing interesting research in Utah and writing stories about wildlife, new technologies and local happenings. She is also a PhD student at Utah State University, studying white pelicans in the Great Salt Lake, so she thinks about birds a lot! She also loves fishing, skiing, baking, and gardening when she has a little free time.
Ellis Juhlin is a science reporter here at Utah Public Radio and a Master's Student at Utah State. She studies Ferruginous Hawk nestlings and the factors that influence their health. She loves our natural world and being part of wildlife research. Now, getting to communicate that kind of research to the UPR listeners through this position makes her love what she does even more. In her free time, you can find her outside on a trail with her partner Matt and her goofy pups Dodger and Finley. They love living in a place where there are year-round adventures to be had!