Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Help Florida Falconers

There is perhaps no bird more iconic of falconry than the peregrine falcon. When populations plummeted and the species was close to extinction in the Eastern U.S. it was falconers who stepped forward donating their resources to bring the bird back from the brink. Today the population of peregrine falcons exceeds even pre-DDT numbers and the species is a poster child for restoring endangered animals.

For many years falconers have been prohibited from capturing wild peregrine falcons to use in falconry due to their endangered status. Any peregrine falcon that you see used as a falconry bird these days is from captive bred stock. However, now that the falcon has been delisted and their population is stable, even increasing, falconers may have the opportunity to once again fly their wild counterparts.

In Florida, regulations are being considered to allow falconers this chance but are facing significant opposition from the Audubon society and their "look but don't touch" mentality. Comments are still being accepted regarding the regulations and I urge any and all to write a brief email supporting the idea of allowing falconers to utilize this resource. It seems a very small reward compared to the tireless efforts of those falconers who worked to bring the bird back in the first place.

Below are some talking points (forwarded by the Florida Hawking Fraternity) you could consider in your emails:

The residents of Florida should not be denied access to a natural resource, which harvesting of the Peregrine falcon should be considered as.

Management of peregrines for use in falconry should be based on sound biology, not politics.

Healthy raptor populations are not affected by the practice of falconry, it has been proven on more than one occasion that falconry has no impact on raptor populations.

Peregrines were delisted (no longer requiring special protection) by the USFWS in 1999, 10 years ago. Now that their populations have been restored, restrictions on the use of the peregrine for falconry should be no greater than those for any other raptor with a healthy population.

The peregrines who were being held for falconry in captivity were used as breeder birds to repopulate the wild population. Falconers designed the current methods used to breed raptors in captivity to helps repopulate peregrines.

Falconers went to wild Peregrine nest sites and removed the un-cracked eggs to be incubated and then returned chicks once they were hatched to the nest sites.

Since 1999, when the peregrine was removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species, the peregrine population in the U.S. has more than doubled and is now several times larger than the recovery goal and the historic pre-DDT population.

Migration data suggests that the population of arctic (tundrius) peregrines has increased almost 10x since the 1970s.

All subspecies of peregrine populations in North America are healthy, self-sustaining, and require no special management for falconry. The peregrine falcon populations in the U.S. have continued to increase and show no sign of having reached an upper limit.

A fair estimate of the North American peregrine population is 20,000 breeding pairs. Being healthy, this population produces 40,000 young per year. Using the USFWS's conservative allowable take of 5% of the young produced per year, a take limit of 2,000 peregrines per year for falconry should be permitted. [It should be noted that with the number of licensed falconers in the U.S. at around 4,000, only a small fraction of which would be interested in flying passage peregrine falcons, nowhere near that number of falconers would actually be taken...]

The take of passage (first year and fully independent of parental care) peregrines for falconry should be permitted in all 48 lower states and Alaska.

No special considerations, limits, or quotas are necessary to protect the peregrine beyond those in the falconry regulations (i.e. only immature raptor may be taken and only two raptors may be taken per year per permittee).

Studies have shown that passage raptors taken for falconry and released the following spring have a better chance for survival then if they had been left in the wild.

Please send comments by April 15th to: peregrine@MyFWC.com

*****Thank you for your help and support*****


Doug said...

Great idea Isaac. I'll cross-post, (If you don't mind.)


Isaac said...

Not at all Doug, please do!

Rebecca K. O'Connor said...

Thinkin' I need to cross post too...

Isaac said...

Thanks Rebecca!