UPDATED March 2011

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 Over the last few months, and on the heels of another very successful passage peregrine trapping season, people from across the country started to whisper about the possibility of changes to future passage peregrine take. This comes as no surprise, as more states come online under the new federal falconry standards, the different wildlife departments are going to seek passage peregrine take opportunities for their own constituents. As a result, the Flyway Councils (the entity that manages which states get take permits) sent a survey with these proposed changes as options to the different state agencies.

 

A number of different scenarios were presented in the survey. It began with the option of dividing all permits equally among the states which allow the trapping of peregrines. There was another that would place all the permits in a national passage peregrine take lottery.  Another defined a ratio system whereby the permits are allotted to states based on the number of falconers living in each state. There was also a “one permit per state” option with all additional permits going into a national random draw. In addition to these, there were a few other not-so-promising scenarios.  The problem with this survey was obvious: it failed to ask the states if they wanted to proceed with the alternative of asking for an increase in take, the 5% take which is the simplest solution that would address all the problems, complaints, and future concerns.

More issues with the current system will surface as additional states come on-line. For example, over the first two years of the passage peregrine take, thirty-six permits were divided among three flyway councils – Atlantic, Mississippi, and Central. To date only Texas has filled all their permits. We do have some advantages; one of the primary reasons is the sheer size and length of our gulf coast, which is a main thoroughfare along the peregrine’s annual migration. Add to that our open beaches policy allowing for greater access then most other states. Probably the most credit should go to the dedicated falconers here in Texas and others visiting that have taken great pains, both financially and in their time, to ensure their permits are filled. In 2010 the Mississippi flyway failed to fill a single passage peregrine take permit, accounting for 12 of the 18 permits that went unfilled. In 2009 they managed to fill one of their 6 allotted permits.  Not filling our allotted permits does not bode well for the falconry community as a whole. It makes it much more difficult for our falconry clubs and state agencies to go to the Flyway Councils and petition for an increase in take when 15 (or 41.7% in 2009) or 18 (or 50% in 2010) of our 36 permits are going unfilled each year. Consider those figures for a moment, 50% of our allotted passage peregrine permits are going unfilled each year. When you read your officer’s reports and they say “make sure of your intent before submitting your application…” now you see why. (See figures below from data published by NAFA on the passage peregrine take.)

 

In late 2007 and early 2008 we considered and made comments to the USFWS regarding the Draft Environmental Assessment (DEA) and the six different alternatives for passage peregrine take. Your officers considered the options, spoke with a lot of others including NAFA, but most importantly we listened to our membership. We as a community, the falconry community, elected to go with Alternative #6 which allowed the take of passage peregrines between the dates of Sep. 20 and Oct. 20 anywhere in the United States. This is a decision we stand by for many reasons.

 

It is time for the falconry community as a whole to take the time and consider the bigger picture when it comes to passage peregrine take.  The short take season was designed to allow a tundra take and to limit impacting our resident anatum populations.  As long as the falconry community continues to request permits for states that have a limited ability at filling those permits, the more difficult it will be for falconers to gain the 5% take promised in the DEA. It is because we, as a community, are failing to fill all the allotted permits thus we are limiting ourselves and lessening the likelihood of the FWS increasing the passage peregrine take allotment. It is time we as a community consider the effect of only filling 50% of our permits.

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t think many of us know for sure what the future holds for falconers, including the passage peregrine take for the 2011 take season.  NAFA has reached out to the state cubs and is trying to accomplish the impossible.  Recently NAFA asked states to send letters to the Atlantic Flyway Council, before their winter meeting, requesting an increase to allowable take from the current 1% to 5%.  This is a good start and is something to build on. As I’ve always said, you don’t know until you ask.

Personally I have heard from many of the less optimistic falconers and their opinions that we will never see a 5% take of passage peregrines.  To those out there that believe this to be true, I’m happy to say they were also some of the same folks who also said we would never be able to trap peregrines again.  Falconers should continue to work together for the bigger, overall, and far reaching picture; a 5% take – by the USFWS own words is justifiable and scientifically allowable. To quote: “...our explicit management goal is to allow a harvest of up to 5% of minimum annual production of Northern peregrines”.  The hard part is for falconers to step back and be honest with themselves and realize that the likelihood of their successfully trapping a peregrine falcon outside of the coastal states is remote at best.  For those falconers who believe the best option is to further divide the thirty-six permits we are being awarded each season, please realize we may never attain the 5% take that way, and my less than optimistic friends out there may in fact be right after all. 

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