Portions of the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forest climbing areas have been closed off to protect rare falcons central to North Carolina, according to reports.
Each year, the U.S. Forest Service closes several rock faces to recreational activities, including rock climbing, repelling and hang gliding, to protect the rare Peregrine Falcons that nest there. The 2018 closure recently went into effect last month.
Wildlife biologists in the state have been working since the 1980s to help recover Peregrine Falcons, which dwindled to only one mating pair in North Carolina in the 1950s. Perhaps the greatest challenge to the recovery of the species is nesting success. Peregrine Falcons mate for life and return to the same site each year to nest. If the pair is disturbed, they will leave the site and may not nest again until the following year. Please help us save this species by avoiding the rock cliffs in the following closed areas:
- Appalachian District - Whiterock Cliff and Buzzard's Roost
- Grandfather District - NC Wall and Shortoff Mountain (in Linville Gorge), Big Lost Cove Cliffs
- Nantahala District - Whiteside Mountain and Pickens Nose (east face)
- Pisgah District - Looking Glass Rock (north face) and Cedar Rock (north face, Morning Glory portion)
As of Jan. 15, entry into these areas is prohibited until Aug. 15, 2018.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and Southern Appalachian Raptor Research monitored the falcons in 2017. As a result of this monitoring, the closed areas have been adjusted this year. Victory Wall on the Pisgah Ranger District will no longer be closed. However, sections of Cedar Rock and Pickens Nose will now be closed.
Closure of the cliffs where Peregrine Falcons are nesting to climbing activities is necessary to limit disturbance during critical reproductive seasons. Young chicks that have not learned to fly will run off the edge of the cliff to escape if threatened. Entry into an area after chicks have hatched is likely to produce this response. Climbers should be aware that both the adults and newly fledged chicks remain in the vicinity of the nesting site and may fly or dive near climbers.
According to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, 16 USC703-712, it is unlawful to take (kill, harass or injure, including eggs) Peregrine Falcons and other birds of prey.
The N.C. Forest Service is currently assessing the presence of ice and any potential effects of ice and associated ice climbing on the timing and success of Peregrine Falcon nesting and fledgling.