ZION NATIONAL PARK - Rock climbing in many areas of Zion National Park will close for the spring next week in order to give the native Peregrine Falcons time to build their summer homes.
They’re known for being one of the fastest birds on earth. The falcons nest in the towering cliffs of the park and can be found during the spring and summer months, but they need their space.
Friday, the park announced they’ll close rock climbing in 13 different areas starting March 1, so they can keep track of the falcon population.
“They’re still in recovery from the endangered species status,” said Zion National Park wildlife biologist Cassie Walters. “So we monitor sites for US Fish and Wildlife Service, so that they can review the data.”
The cliffs that will close include: Angels Landing, Cable Mountain, The Great White Throne (beyond single and double-pitched climbs), Isaac (in Court of the Patriarchs), The Sentinel, Mountain of the Sun, North Twin Brother, Tunnel Wall, The East Temple, Mount Spry, The Streaked Wall, Mount Kinesava, and the Middle Fork of Taylor Creek. All other cliffs will remain open to climbing.
Those specific sites were identified last year as nesting spots. Since the falcons fly south for the winter, biologists don’t know to where they’ll return. But it doesn’t mean climbing is closed for good, the falcons just get top priority.
“We have several cliffs in each territory,” Walters said. “They use a pretty good sized territory, so we’ll close all of those cliffs and then once we determine the exact location of the nests, we can open up anything they’re not using.”
Walters said it’s not just for the falcon’s benefit, the predatory birds have been known to dive on climbers, as they’re very territorial. Any cliffs unused by the falcons will reopen when the chicks fledge, which is usually by mid-July. Fledge refers to the stage in a young bird’s life when the feathers and wing muscles are able to support flight.