(UNDATED) - Beginning Sunday, Indiana's peregrine falcon program officially and legally can claim an extra adjective - successful.
That's because the peregrine falcon officially comes off Indiana's endangered species list on Sunday. It was removed from the federal endangered list in 1999.
"With the delisting of peregrine falcons in Indiana we celebrate their dramatic population recovery and expect them to continue to thrive in the future," said John Castrale, a DNR nongame biologist who has spearheaded the state's peregrine reintroduction program that began in 1991.
Indiana's initial goal was to establish four nesting pairs in the state. It took only six years to reach that mark, and the numbers have climbed ever since with 10 or more successful nesting pairs for 12 straight years. This summer, peregrines were present in 24 locations across the state, 17 pairs nested and 46 young were produced from 15 of the nests.
Having exceeded the original goals, the DNR sought approval to remove the peregrine falcon from the state endangered list, which the Natural Resources Commission authorized in July.
"Although this takes the peregrine falcon off the state endangered list, it's still a species of special concern and will have the same protections enjoyed by other migratory birds under state and federal laws," Castrale said.
The delisting allows Indiana to change falconry regulations, which will now let one to two juvenile falcons migrating from Arctic regions to be captured annually by licensed falconers for use in that sport.
"Also future efforts to monitor nesting falcon pairs will be lessened, but relationships will be maintained with building and plant managers that have nesting falcons and nest boxes," Castrale said. "The goal is to ensure the birds can continue to nest successfully."
A half-century ago, habitat loss and decreased reproduction resulting from use of pesticides, such as DDT, put peregrine falcons in peril of surviving as a species. By 1965, no peregrine falcons nested east of the Mississippi River, and western populations had declined by 90 percent.
In response, Cornell University established the Peregrine Fund in 1976 to study, breed and restore peregrine populations. The first U.S. reintroduction projects began in 1974.
Through these efforts, it was discovered that urban settings offered nesting areas in tall buildings that mimic the peregrine's natural cliff-side habitat. It was this fact, not pigeon control, that led biologists to target large cities for peregrine reintroduction efforts. Over a four-year period beginning in 1991, the Indiana DNR released 60 young falcons in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, South Bend and Evansville.
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