Tuesday, June 2, 2015


Until today, I thought I knew a lot about chukar. I always thought that the spring weather conditions were the major factor for having good or bad chukar season's.

I've been watching the turkey nest that I found earlier in order to document the hatch date of the eggs. I was disappointed to find the the eggs gone today. Not only were the eggs gone, there was a trail of feathers leaving the nest site telling me there was probably some type of encounter between the hen and something else.
With my discovery I decided to do more research into mortality rates of chukar and turkey. I kept coming up with studies done in Utah and some other foreign country that pretty much mirrored each other.

Harsh winters are the most devastating factor on chukar survival and have been known to knock out 90% or more of the chukar population. Predation is number two, taking 35% of the year's birds. Ground mammals do the most damage during the nesting season and the air predators take over once the eggs are hatched. The human predation (hunting) takes 8%.

The good news with chukar numbers is that when weather conditions are favorable in the spring, chukars lay large numbers of eggs. I've seen as many as 18, but have heard of even higher numbers. Even with  a 35% predation factor, those large number of eggs in most nests can produce a good year. If we could eliminate 1/2 half of the predators preying on the eggs, our year suddenly becomes great. If we could eliminate some of the predators from the air the upland numbers would jump to record numbers. Eliminating predators from the air is not possible but controlling some of the ground predators can be done.


Jay Hanson said...

Some folks will say it is just part of nature, but it is still difficult to swallow. Ranchers around here like to say that antelope need to have twins; one for the coyotes and one to survive. Some have seen coyotes intercept the fawn right during birth. That is something I would rather not think about.

Promise that your next post will include a photo of 18 chukar chicks!

larry szurgot said...

Jay, I'm going to do my best. This morning Jake and I took a hike and got some pictures of two baby foxes and a huge rattler. There's no way I could do in the foxes but the rattler's tail is now in my treasure box.

Jon S said...

As a bird and big game hunter I have a hard time justifying killing critters that are eating non-native chukars to survive just to increase my chances of having a successful hunt. I'm not saying predator control is unjustified at all times, there are pretty clear cases in "predator pit" situations with big game that predator control seems appropriate. But I feel like people harm habitat enough through development etc without going in to specifically alter the predator situation. I figure if the predators can find a way to survive we should honor that and let them get their slice too. I offer that as a fan of this blog.

larry szurgot said...

Well put Jon S.