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Contact: Greg Phillips, 304 465-6546
“Every year at this time, we ask the public to help increase the likelihood that peregrine falcons might select a nesting site along the Endless Wall,” said Debbie Darden, Deputy Superintendent for the National Park Service (NPS) at New River Gorge National River. “By using other locations for hiking and rock climbing for the next month, local residents and visitors will help create the environment preferred by these magnificent birds, which includes areas with minimal human activity,” Darden explained.
Last year (2007) was the second year of a multi-year restoration program for the peregrine falcon, and 24 young peregrines were released into the Gorge. Satellite transmitters were placed on six birds last year; and of these six, three have returned to West Virginia. There have also been visual sightings of peregrines this spring both within New River Gorge and at Harpers Ferry, WV. With this increased peregrine activity comes a greater chance of having a nesting pair within the park, and it is very important to minimize disturbance around potential nest sites. Updated information and maps are available on the park website at http://www.nps.gov/neri.
Any falcon observations within the gorge are considered a positive indication of the project’s overall success. The NPS believes human activity during the bird’s critical “courtship” period in early spring may be one of the key reasons that no nesting activity has been observed in New River Gorge in the past. Thus, we are asking the public to avoid using the area between Diamond Point along the Endless Wall and the Keeney’s Creek drainage between March 29th and April 27th, 2008.
Known for its speed, beauty, and agility, the peregrine is a member of the falcon family, a group of birds marked by pointed wings, narrow tails, and strong rapid wing beats. Historically, peregrines nested in cliffs and rocky outcrops of the Appalachian Mountains. In the 1950s and 1960s its population in the eastern United States was decimated by the widespread use of pesticides. DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbons in the food chain caused thinning of the eggshells, resulting in the eggs being broken during incubation. Reintroduction programs are gradually returning the peregrine to its former range throughout North America.
For the next month, the NPS requests that persons planning to hike or climb near the Endless Wall consider using alternative locations to ensure the effectiveness of this monitoring program. Sites offering similar recreational opportunities are listed below. Additional information can be obtained at Canyon Rim Visitor Center.