MENDON — Two prominent cliff sites on the Green Mountain National Forest’s Rochester and Middlebury Ranger Districts are once again temporarily closed to protect critical nesting habitat for peregrine falcons.
As of Wednesday, the Rattlesnake Cliff Area (Salisbury) and the Mount Horrid/Great Cliff Area (Rochester) are closed until Aug. 1. While it seems like the depth of winter, falcons already are migrating back to Vermont to their nesting sites, and the closure of these areas, as well as their cliff access trails, prevents disturbance to the falcons while they nest and raise their young.
Peregrine falcon populations suffered declines because of the use of DDT in the 1940s but have rebounded since their reintroduction in the ‘80s. Even though peregrines are now considered a recovered species in Vermont, it is critical to minimize human disturbance so that the species’ recovery continues. Across Vermont, 2022 was a successful year for peregrines: 29 nesting pairs produced 63 young that fledged from their cliff nests. Although the number of nesting pairs was lower in 2022 than in some recent years, the number of young produced per nest was above the 10-year average.
Trail and habitat monitoring in 2022 determined that there is still human disturbance near nests during the closures. This disruption can cause the falcons to abandon their nests or interrupt the care of their young.
The public needs to respect important habitat and the closures that have helped the peregrine falcon return to the forests, the federal agency said in a statement. Adhere to the closure signs posted on the trails leading to the cliff overlooks. Disturbance of peregrine falcons and/or these nesting grounds is a violation of federal law and might result in a fine up to $5,000 and six months in jail.
Information regarding the specific locations for the closure areas is available on the Forest Service website. Report any harassment of nesting peregrine falcons to 800-75ALERT. The Forest Service works with Audubon Vermont, the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, and other nonprofit organizations to protect peregrine falcons.