Zion National Park temporarily closes climbing routes for protection of peregrine falcons

Composite photo | Falcon by Tom Becker and courtesy of Division of Wildlife Resources, Zion National Park photo by and courtesy of Seth Hamel, St. George News

SPRINGDALE — Temporary climbing route closures began Wednesday at Zion National Park in preparation for the arrival of the peregrine falcons that begin nesting on the cliffs surrounding the park. The length of the closures will depend on where the birds ultimately nest.

The following climbing routes were temporarily closed Wednesday: trails leading to Angels Landing, Cable Mountain, The Great White Throne (beyond single and double-pitched climbs), Isaac within the Court of the Patriarchs, The Sentinel, Mountain of the Sun, North Twin Brother, Tunnel Wall, The East Temple, Mount Spry, The Streaked Wall, Mount Kinesava and the Middle Fork of Taylor Creek.

Peregrine falcon, date and location not specified | Photo by Scott Root and courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News

The closure dates are based on the analysis of data collected over the past 15 years showing when the peregrine falcons typically arrive in the park to begin nesting on the cliffs, according to a press release from John Marciano, spokesperson for Zion National Park.

All other routes in the park will remain open for climbing, the press release states.

The route closures will allow for park wildlife biologists to monitor the nesting activity of the birds throughout the 2017 breeding season. Any cliffs currently closed but not being used for nesting activity will reopen once the birds become settled, which usually occurs by late April or early May.

Nesting cliffs will be monitored until the peregrine chicks have fledged, usually toward the end of July, at which point the climbing trails will reopen.

Zion National Park is home to a high concentration of breeding peregrine falcons each spring and summer. The bird was put on the endangered species list in 1970 under the Endangered Species Act due to their rapidly declining numbers.

Much of this is attributed to the use of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or DDT, an insecticide which caused the birds to produce eggs with thin shells that were easily broken, killing the developing embryo inside.

The use of DDT began during World War II as an “extremely effective pesticide;” however, the the adverse effects this chemical would have on the environment would not be revealed for more than two decades, according to information obtained from the Nature Conservancy.

This greatly affected the food chain of the peregrine falcon, whose diet consists of other birds and fish that were contaminated by the chemical that leaked into the water or was found in seeds that smaller birds feasted upon. Bats, fireflies and peregrine falcons were just a few species that were greatly affected, the Nature Conservancy states.

In 1999 the birds were removed from the list after population numbers recovered, primarily due to the success of captive breeding programs and the U.S. ban on DDT in 1972.

With more than 230 square miles, Zion National Park is a vital part of this recovery effort and has been a sanctuary for more than 280 species of birds that find protection in the park.

For up-to-date information on the status of the route closures and map information please go to the Zion National Park Website by clicking here.,

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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