Cliff sites closed for peregrine nesting

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. Beginning on March 15, the Rattlesnake Cliff Area (Salisbury) and the Mount Horrid/Great Cliff Area (Rochester) are closed until August 1. 

While it seems like the depth of winter, falcons are already 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 due to the use of DDT in the 1940’s but have rebounded since their reintroduction in the 1980’s. 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 nesting sites during the closure periods. This disruption can cause the falcons to abandon their nests or interrupt the care of their young. As a strong reminder, we all need to respect important habitat and the closures that have helped the peregrine falcon return to our forests.

Please adhere to the closure signs posted on the trails leading to the cliff overlooks. Information regarding the specific locations for the closure areas is available on the Forest Service website. Disturbance of peregrine falcons and/or these nesting grounds is a violation of federal law and may result in a fine up to $5,000 and 6 months in jail.

Please report any harassment of nesting peregrine falcons to 1-800-75ALERT. The Forest Service works with Audubon Vermont, the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, and other non-profit organizations to protect peregrine falcons.

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