Granite Mountain–for the birds?

Eva Hernandez

Staff Writer

If you want to climb at Prescott’s Granite Mountain, you must do so between July 16 and January 31. The protection of peregrine falcon breeding has been in effect annually for the last 17 years.

Granite Mountain and Thumb Butte both have closures posted February 1 of each year with maps and guidelines that park-goers must follow. The guidelines are posted to ensure that the peregrines have the time to successfully mate, produce eggs and care for their young in a peaceful environment. Peregrine falcons lay their eggs in small grooves in rocks. When disturbed, eggs can fall off their ledges.

A primary local threat for these birds is recreational climbing, according to Noel Fletcher, the Wildlife Biologist for the Prescott National Forest.

Granite Mountain used to be closed for peregrines only in March. When Fletcher was hired by Prescott National Forest in 1995, however, she implemented the current closure dates.

“I am balancing what people want with what wildlife needs,” Fletcher said.

These sorts of closures are not limited to Granite Mountain. They are also in effect at Yosemite, Zion and Rocky Mountain National Parks.

Peregrine falcons became endangered due to the use of DDT. This common pesticide caused their egg shells to become thin, which then led to population decline. Since the ban of DDT, their population has recovered. They were removed from the endangered species list in 1999.

Fletcher is open to suggestions for alternate climbing locations, and she is willing to make this information available to the public. You can contact her at (928) 443-8020.

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