The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently released the Final Environmental Assessment and Management Plan (FEA) allowing the limited removal and possession of migrant first-year "Northern" (predominantly Arctic subspecies) peregrine falcons from the wild for use in the sport of falconry.
"American peregrine falcon populations continue to grow in the U.S., especially in the West. The northern, or Arctic, peregrine falcon was delisted in 1995, and recent migration counts (2003-2006) indicate that the population remains healthy," according to Service Director H. Dale Hall.
By allowing falconers to capture birds only in specific areas and at specific times, the Service can guarantee their removal would have no significant impact on the population. The majority of peregrine falcons that migrate from North America to Central and South America (mostly Arctic and northern American peregrines) migrate along the Atlantic coast and over the Gulf of Mexico. However, many other peregrines in the eastern U.S. and southeastern Canada do not migrate far south. The FEA concludes that any take allowed is unlikely to negatively affect populations of peregrine falcons in North America or Greenland.
There are three recognized subspecies of peregrine falcons in North America: the Arctic peregrine, which nests in Alaska, northern Canada and Greenland and migrates south to Central and South America; the American peregrine, which nests in parts of southern Canada, Alaska, and the conterminous United States, some of which migrate south; and the non-migratory Peale's peregrine, which resides on the Pacific coast from Alaska to Oregon.
In the FEA, the Service considered eight alternatives for the removal and possession of migrant peregrine falcons in the United States. The preferred alternative is to allow take of up to 130 nestling and post-fledging first-year peregrine falcons from the nesting period until September 1 west of 100o W longitude (including Alaska), and allow a take of up to 36 first-year migrant peregrine falcons between September 20 and October 20 from anywhere in the U.S. east of 100o W longitude.
"We have carefully crafted this alternative to protect peregrine falcon populations so while allowing us to work with the States, through the Flyway Councils, to once again allow the traditional capture of a limited number of migrant peregrine falcons for use in falconry. Since the request came from the States, this is an excellent example of our efforts to work with them to meet mutual needs," said Hall.
The Service is calling for extensive coordination and effort with the Flyway Councils to establish procedures for collection, housing, and assessment of feather samples, and to establish criteria for determining the sex of harvested peregrines. In addition, the Service proposes to monitor the number, sex, and geographic distribution of harvested peregrines to ensure compliance with the frameworks in the proposed action. The Service will review peregrine falcon populations every five years, or at the request of the flyway councils, and harvest data for Canada, the U.S., and Mexico to reassess allowable harvest limits. If the review concludes the northern America peregrine is no longer formally considered threatened or endangered by the Canadian Wildlife Service, and if the Atlantic and Mississippi flyway councils determine that peregrines from the Eastern management population no longer warrant special protection, the Service will consider transitioning from Alternative 7 to Alternative 8 of the FEA to manage peregrines.
Copies of the FEA and Draft Management Plan can be obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Migratory Bird Management, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Mail Stop 4107, Arlington, VA 22203-1610. The FEA also is available at http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen,