From Staff Reports
MOOSE, WYO. — Grand Teton National Park managers have closed a popular climbing area to give a pair of peregrine falcons a little privacy during nesting and while fledging any chicks they may produce.
Grand Teton Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott announced in a statement Friday that Baxter’s Pinnacle and its southwest descent gully will be closed immediately due to the active peregrine falcon nest. Baxter’s Pinnacle is a popular climbing route in Cascade Canyon in Grand Teton National Park.
In 2011, a Grand Teton peregrine falcon pair established a new nest near Baxter’s Pinnacle. This is the second year that a closure will be levied. Park managers say the closure is necessary to protect both climbers and falcons. As the peregrines reclaim the previous nest area, park officials said, it is a critical time for the birds and climbers must comply with the posted public closure.
“Peregrine falcons generally lay their eggs in early May, so this is a crucial time for them as they re-establish this aerie near Baxter’s Pinnacle,” said Sue Wolff a Grand Teton wildlife biologist.
Wolff said that Grand Teton peregrine falcons “are sensitive to human disturbance and will abandon a nest to defend their territory, which can lead to nest failure and low reproductive success.”
“We want to keep climbers safe and increase the chances for a successful aerie,” she said.
Peregrine falcons are territorial and aggressive birds, especially while nesting and incubating eggs. They become even more protective after their chicks hatch.
The peregrine falcon is among the world’s fastest birds, flying at up to 55 mph and diving at more than 200 mph while defending territory or attacking prey.
Park officials say the bird’s speed and aggressive territorial behavior pose a safety risk to climbers who could be knocked off the route and injured.
Officials said Baxter’s Pinnacle will remain closed until the young birds have fledged or biologists determine there is no longer a risk to either climbers or the falcons. A nearby climb called No Perches Necessary remains open.
Peregrines were removed from the federal endangered species list in 1999, but remain a species of concern in Grand Teton National Park
There are only three other nesting pairs of Grand Teton peregrine falcons.
Seasonal and temporary closures for wildlife protection are common in Grand Teton and other national parks to protect both wildlife and park users. Entering a posted wildlife closure is a violation under the code of federal regulations that can result in a citation and fine.
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