Friday, Mar 9, 2007
Devils Tower National Monument Climbing Route Closure to Protect Prairie Falcons
To protect Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus) nesting sites, the National Park Service (NPS) will temporarily close climbing routes along the west and northeast faces of Devils Tower beginning March 15th. This closure is an annual event established under the monument's 1995 Climbing Management Plan with authority from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The areas to be closed include all pitches of climbing routes between and including âHigh Namâ and âAccident Victimâ on the west face (routes #140 to 182 in climbing guide book). On the northeast face, routes between and including âBelle Fourche Buttressâ and âMaid in the Shaidâ (routes #68 to #93) will be closed. All pitches terminating at the âTeacherâs Loungeâ will remain open. In addition, the entire west and northeast edge of the Tower summit is off limits to climbers. Climbers may ask at the visitor center or administration building to see a list of all closed routes.
NPS professionals will survey the Tower to determine the presence or absence of nesting prairie falcons. Areas without nesting falcons will be reopened by May 15th. Areas with falcon nests will remain closed until young falcons fledge, generally between July 15 and August 1. The closure areas may change based on the location of nesting pairs.
Prairie falcons are extremely defensive of their nests and are easily driven from the area. 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 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 prairie falcons are using the Tower with an affinity for the west and northeast faces where pairs nested in 2005 and 2006. In recent years, young falcons were observed to have fledged from nests on the Tower in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2006.
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. For further information on the climbing closures please contact the monumentâs chief of resource management, Jim Cheatham, at (307) 467-5283 ext 212.