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Falcons In The New River Gorge

They prey and hunt from above, feeding on other birds. Once they spot their target, they fall into a dive that can reach over 200 mph. These are the Peregrine falcons.

Peregrine Falcon Takes Flight Over New River Gorge
Peregrine falcons live on all continents except Antarctica. (Photo by Gary Hartley)

Lots of these falcons lived in the New River Gorge before becoming endangered in the 1970s. Beginning in the ‘50s, the pesticide DDT was heavily used in agriculture. This pesticide was harming the falcon’s eggs and caused the bird to go on the endangered list until 1999. Since then, there have been numerous projects to bring back the Peregrine falcon in the United States and Canada.

The National Park Service and the Three Rivers Avian Center have been working hard to bring back this bird population in the New River Gorge (NRG) by bringing in young birds that have set up nests on bridges in the surrounding states. They then place these birds in a cage nestled into the rocks and trees, far away from humans, to allow them to grow into strong and healthy adults. This process, called “hacking,” has been a successful restoration project in the NRG.

It is estimated that over the next 3-5 years, over 45 Peregrine falcons will be released into the NRG! “[This restoration project] is the most successful in East coast and one of most successful in US,” said Wendy Perrone, Executive Director of Three Rivers Avian Center. “We run close to a 100% success rate, while other restoration projects normally get 50%.”

NRG Climbing Community Steps Up

Since the hacking process requires that the falcons have no human interaction, the restoration project has required cooperation from the large NRG climbing community.

Young Peregrine Falcon
Young Peregrine falcons begin flying at around 40 days old. (Photo by Gary Hartley)

The NRAC (New River Alliance of Climbers) have voluntarily closed down a few climbing spots to stay away from the hacking sites and other nesting birds. NRAC’s mission statement explains their dedication to the area: “to preserve and promote climber access, and to conserve the climbing resources in the New River Gorge and surrounding areas.”

“Everyone is thrilled about the recovery of the falcons,” said Gene Kistler, who is president of the NRAC, “but we want to keep the climbing areas open.”

[pullquote]“Everyone is thrilled about the recovery of the falcons.” – Gene Kistler, President of the NRAC[/pullquote]

The NRAC and the NPS work together to avoid yearly closures and only close spots when needed so everyone (including you!) can enjoy climbing the NRG as much as possible.

Have you ever spotted a Peregrine falcon? You could definitely get a peek at some the next time you visit the NRG.

Share this post with your friends to unlock an awesome video of a Peregrine falcon’s POV. Watch it dive, barrel roll, and fly through trees!

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