ACADIA NATIONAL PARK – Superintendent Paul Haertel said the annual closure of areas in and around Precipice Cliff and Valley Cove to protect rare peregrine falcons will begin today.
Hiking trails, including the Precipice and the East face of Chamberlain Mountain, will be closed until the birds’ breeding and nesting seasons are finished. Staff maintenance work in the affected areas also will cease through nesting season.
Although the Jordan Cliffs and Beech Cliffs Loop trails remain open for hikers, they likely will be closed soon to give the birds a greater degree of security.
Once state and park biologists determine the young birds no longer are dependent on their parents and nesting areas on the cliff are secure – expected to occur in early August – all trails will be reopened to visitor use.
Signs and maps informing the public of the purpose and extent of the closure will be posted at all key parking areas, trail junctions and at visitor centers. Additional information will be available for public review at park headquarters.
Peregrine falcons were placed on the federal endangered species list in the early 1970s because habitat loss and pesticides such as DDT caused the peregrine population to decline throughout North America and disappear in the Northeastern United States.
The National Park Service says research has shown that nesting falcons are particularly vulnerable to human disturbance originating immediately above a nesting area or directed at a nesting site.
Continued disturbances can lead to chick mortality or complete nest failure, which further slows recovery of the species in Maine, park biologists said.
Acadia National Park was selected in 1984 to take part in an international falcon reintroduction program. A number of young, captive-bred falcons were released from a cliff above Jordan Pond in an attempt to create a local population.
In 1991, the first pair of wild peregrine falcons spotted in Acadia nested successfully on the east face of Champlain Mountain. A second pair of falcons established a nest site on Beech Cliffs above Echo Lake in 1995, and a third pair of falcons established a nesting territory at Jordan Cliffs in 1996.
Mount Desert Island’s falcon pairs have become the foundation of Maine’s peregrine falcon recovery program with the fledgling of more than 40 chicks over the past decade.
In 1999, peregrine falcons were removed from the federal endangered species list because recovery efforts nationwide have been so successful.