Beginning February 1st, Big Bend National Park will temporarily close areas of the Chisos Mountains as peregrine falcons nest. Sanctioned by the National Park Service (NPS), the closures happen yearly and will continue through May 31st.
The peregrine falcon, a smaller though no-less majestic bird of prey, was once far more plentiful across North America. But loss of habitat, trapping, and the fallout of rodent poisoning would bring the species close to extinction in the 20th century. August 1999 would see the species removed from the federal endangered species list as conservation helped revitalize their numbers. In Big Bend’s Texas, however, the peregrine falcon remains a threatened species.
“The small population found in Big Bend National Park and the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River represents most of the peregrines found in Texas,” begins Big Bend Superintendent Bob Krumenaker. “We appreciate the continued public support and cooperation to protect these remarkable birds.”
As NPS further explains in their media release on the matter, “The National Park Service policies require the protection and preservation of all state-listed species and all species of concern, regardless of federal or state classification. In keeping with this mandate, and to provide the nesting falcons with areas free of human disturbance, the NPS will again temporarily close or place restrictions on the use of certain lands at Big Bend National Park.”
As a result, the following Big Bend National Park areas will close to public entry from February 1 through May 31:
- A portion of the East Rim Trail from the southern junction of the Boot Canyon Trail to a point just north of Campsite ER-4. (see map below)
- East Rim Campsites: ER-4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
- Technical rock climbing on rock faces within ¼ mile of known peregrine eyries
NPS does not plan to close any other areas, “but restrictions may be modified if Peregrine behavior or nesting sites do not follow traditional trends,” their preliminary report continues.
Unfortunately, the 2021 South Rim Fire would burn over 1,300 acres of woodland in the Chisos. Areas around historical falcon nesting sites saw great devastation through the blaze. Yet in 2022, a mating pair returned to the area, and surveying biologists found that the nest was successful with fledging offspring.
Through continued efforts of federal, state and private agencies, the peregrine falcon’s story has become one of remarkable comeback. The species was first placed on the federal endangered species list in 1970. But aggressive recovery programs (beginning in 1974) brought over 6,000 falcons back to the wild. Today, there are about 3,000 breeding pairs of American peregrine falcons in Canada, Mexico, and the United States as a result.
For more information on the wildlife of Big Bend, see our Big Bend National Park Wildlife: Animals You’ll Spot, Including Venomous Species, in Incredibly Diverse Park next.