Rangers At Devils Tower National Monument Watching For Nesting Prairie Falcons

Rangers at Devils Tower National Monument are keeping an eye out for nesting prairie falcons. NASA photo.

While peregrine falcons are the main birds of concern at some Eastern parks, in Wyoming the rangers at Devils Tower National Monument are keeping an eye out for prairie falcons that might be nesting.

According to a release from the monument located in northeastern Wyoming, individual falcons have been observed near the Tower, but no nesting activity has been documented. As a result, there currently are no climbing closures in effect on the Tower. After specific nesting sites are identified, climbing closures might be implemented based on the location of the nests, the park said.

These closures are an annual event established under the monument’s 1995 Climbing Management Plan, with authority from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The closures are enacted to protect prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus) nesting sites. Climbing and rappel route closures might change during the season based on the location and behavior of the nesting falcons. Areas with falcon nests will remain closed until young falcons fledge, generally between July 15 and August 1.

Prairie falcons are extremely defensive of their nests and are easily driven from an area by human disturbance. The presence of climbers near or above falcon nests is distressing to parent birds. Too much disturbance from climbing activities may force falcons to abandon eggs or chicks. The closure area is implemented not only for the protection of the birds, but also for the protection of climbers, as prairie falcons are known to defensively dive in order to protect their nests.

Prior observations suggest that prairie falcons use the Tower with an affinity for the west and northeast faces, where pairs nested from 2005 to 2007. In 2008, falcons were observed nesting on the south face of the Tower. In recent years, young falcons were observed to have fledged from the Tower in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2006, and 2007. In 2009, the falcons nested and fledged away from the Tower.

Climbers can find a list of currently closed routes at www.nps.gov/deto/planyourvisit/currentclimbingclosures.htm, the park climbing kiosk, the climber registration office, or at the visitor center or administration building.

Separate from the falcon closure, Devils Tower National Monument has a voluntary climbing closure in effect for the month of June, out of respect for American Indian cultural traditions.