Less climbing, more peregrines: Heed the biologists and stay away from peregrine-falcon nesting sites this year. The crow-size peregrines—the world’s fastest birds—have nesting sites in Western North Carolina, particularly atop the high, broad cliffs often favored by rock climbers. Almost 30 years ago, the species was near extinction, but the banning of the pesticide DDT—a toxin which had devastated the population—and a breed-and-release program have reestablished their foothold in North America.
In WNC, wildlife biologists post signs warning climbers to stay away from known nesting sites. The birds mate for life, returning to the same sites year after year. Adult birds may abandon a nest if molested, while older nestlings are especially sensitive to disturbance and—if approached by a climber—may bolt off a ledge before they can fly. Late spring is an especially critical time for nestlings.
“The peregrine falcon is an endangered-species success story,” says Chris Kelly, a biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. “Key to that success has been the willingness of rock climbers to make concessions for the birds.”
Through mid-August, the U.S. Forest Service restricts access to the seven known sites in WNC that are located in national forests, such as the north face of Looking Glass Rock. Watch for posted signs and stay away. A complete list of closed climbing routes is posted at www.cs.unca.edu/nfsnc and www.carolinaclimbers.org, the Carolina Climbers Coalition Web site.
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