A press release reported that cliffs whose ledges are not used for nesting should reopen sometime in late April or early May; cliffs with nesting falcons however, will remain closed until the chicks have fledged, “usually in late July”.
Southwest Wildlife Foundation founder, and bird expert, Martin Tyner said that in 1999 the peregrine falcon became the first bird of prey removed from the endangered species list. He said when they became listed in 1970 it was believed that only about 4-dozen peregrine falcons alive.
“There were more than that,” Tyner said. “But that’s what was believed.”
He said that, because of captive breeding through a program called the peregrine fund more than 4000 peregrines have been bred in captivity, and released back into the wild. He said that captive breeding has made no difference on how the falcons behave in the wild.
The press release reported that the overuse of the insecticide DDT was a direct link to the decline of the peregrine falcon as a species. The chemical caused the production of thin-shelled eggs that were unable to support the developing embryo, and would easily break.
"The peregrines raised the alarm for the overuse of pesticides called DDT," Tyner said. “All of the birds of prey are on the top of the food chain, and since we are at the top of the food chain, what affects them affects us,
"The peregrine falcon, the bald eagle and the brown pelican that suffered from DDT, were the canaries in the coal mine for us," he added.
Tyner said that the reproduction aspect of the peregrine falcon isn't the only concern Zion park managers have. Another reason for the closures is the protective nature of the birds with newly hatched chick, he said they can become violently protective if they are worried that their babies might be in danger.
Southern Utah University adventure education coordinator Rob Myers is a climber who said that he has come into direct contact with wildlife more times that one while scaling the cliffs of Zion, but none of them were falcons.
"All of my experiences have been pleasant," he said. "Maybe I've come across a snake on the rock, or a startled mountain goat that didn't expect to see me, but none of them have ever tried to attack me, or made me feel unsafe."
Myers said he spends time climbing in Zion Canyon Nation Park, because the cliffs there are a traditional climbers dream.
"It's kind of one of those flagship areas to go and climb," he said.
Myers said climbers expect certain cliffs to close for periods-of-time annually. He said there are so many cliffs to climb in Southern Utah, that it hasn't ever presented any real problems for him.
He said that Zion National Park has always been good about making it known which areas are available, and which are unavailable to park visitors.
"They have always been very up front, with good signage everywhere, so you always know what's going on," he said.
There are 13 cliff routes that are closed to the climbers during the mating seasons: Angels Landing, Cable Mountain, The Sentinel, Mountain of the Sun, North Twin Brother, Tunnel Wall, The East Temple, Mount Spry, The Streaked Wall, Mount Kinesava, Middle Fork of Taylor Creek, The Great White Throne and Mt. Isaac.
More information is available at www.nps.gov/zion/