Washington Climbers Coalition P.O. Box 77315, Seattle, Washington 98133

2009 Falcon Closure on Snow Creek Wall, Leavenworth

Falcon on Library Ledge, Snow Creek Wall, 2009.
Photo by Lisa Doubet

Mr. Falcon, to you!
Crop of Photo by Lisa Doubet
In the Spring of 2009 the Forest Service imposed a formal closure to protect falcons that were nesting on Library Ledge, on Outer Space, the most famous climb in Leavenworth. The closure remained in place through the nesting season and was lifted mid-July. This year (2011) the birds have taken up roost on a more remote part of the cliff, away from popular climbs. The normal Spring closure is in place at Midnight Rock.

There are three known pairs of Peregrine Falcons nesting in the Wenatchee River District (the combined former Levenworth and Lake Wenatchee Districts). Two of these pairs have been nesting on two of the District's more popular crags, Midnight Rock and Snow Creek Wall. A Spring closure of Midnight Rock has been imposed for over fifteen years and climbers have shown good cooperation here. When the falcons set up shop on Outer Space in 2009 it was climbers who first reported this new location to the biologist in the Leavenworth ranger station. The local rangers (the Leavenworth ranger station is local headquarters for what is now called the Wenatchee River District) forwarded that information up their chain of command and a formal closure was established for that nesting season only.

Area Open for 2011 nesting season:
No nesting closure was imposed at Snow Creek wall in 2011.

Why Close a Crag?
Wildlife biologists tell us that every pair of birds and every nesting situation is different. Some falcons do just fine with a nest in a location where people routinely pass nearby, but Peregrines are generally very territorial and birds nesting on cliffs have selected those locations for their remoteness and protection from predators. These birds will likely neglect their nesting duties in order to defend their turf if climbers approach. Even if they don't engage in dive bombing and other direct attack, they become agitated and this threatens the viability of their nest. Eggs can be dislodged from the nest, left in the cold or heat to fail, or crushed during defensive displays. Newly hatched raptors can not regulate their own body temperature and frightened juvenile birds may attempt to fly before they are ready.

In the past, some climbers have argued that the birds did not need this kind of protection, observing that they are no longer listed as an endangered species and many seem to do just fine in downtown Seattle. This is true and there has in the past been a pair nesting on a highway bridge in downtown Portland, but although they are adaptable and can successfully raise their chicks in these urban environments, they get used to "background" conditions but are not able to adapt to change or intermittent intrusion into their nesting area. Further, their "boundaries" are not always obvious: on that Portland bridge, for example, the birds were fine with tens of thousands of cars going by every day but when a film crew set up on the bridge, actually out of sight of their nest but close to it, the birds went berserk and biologists, fearful for the nest, were forced to ask the State to require the film crew to move.

Cooperation Requested
We hope climbers will cooperate with these closures and these magnificant birds can raise their young.

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