Acadia National Park will reopen the popular hiking trails exploring Precipice, Jordan Cliffs and Valley Cove on Thursday, Aug. 3, after months of these trails being closed in an effort to protect nesting peregrine falcons.
Celebrated as the fastest bird in the world, the peregrine falcon is listed as “endangered” under Maine’s Endangered Species Act. They nest on cliffs, raising their young throughout the summer.
Just five weeks ago, park staff recorded the successful fledging of five peregrine falcon chicks in Acadia, from nest built on Precipice and Valley Cove cliffs. These birds are now independent of both the cliffs and their parents, according to the National Park Service. Although the adults and juvenile falcons are expected to stay in the vicinity of these cliffs through early fall, they are not expected to be negatively affected by visitors.
“The temporary closures have contributed to another successful breeding year for peregrine falcons in Acadia National Park, and we appreciate the cooperation of visitors in helping to make this possible,” said Superintendent Kevin Schneider in a press release issued by the National Park Service today. “We encourage visitors to enjoy the hiking trails that have reopened and be sure to keep safety in mind, especially on the Precipice Trail.”
Precipice Trail, while popular among park visitors, isn’t for everyone. The trail scales the cliffs of the park’s lofty St. Sauveur Mountain and requires fairly technical, hand-over-foot hiking. Metal rungs, rails and ladders aid hikers in the steepest sections.
The National Park Service closed the trails on Precipice, as well as the trails on and around Jordan Cliffs and Valley Cove, on March 17. The park does this each year to protect the peregrine falcons from inadvertent disturbance or harassment during their nesting period.
Peregrine falcons disappeared from the eastern United States altogether in the 1960s due to the negative effects of pesticide use and other human influences, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The first re-established pair of nesting peregrines were found in Piscataquis County in 1987. Over the years, their numbers have slowly increased in Maine. To date, biologists estimate approximately 25 pairs nest in the state.
Research has shown that nesting falcons are particularly vulnerable to human disturbance originating immediately above the nesting area or directed at the nest site. Continued disturbances can lead to chick mortality or complete nest failure, which slows the recovery of the species in Maine. The closure of cliffs and associated trails during the nesting season has proven to be successful with over 125 chicks fledging from cliffs in Acadia National Park over the last 20 years.
For more information about Acadia National Park, visit https://www.nps.gov/acad. You can also join online conversations about the park at www.facebook.com/AcadiaNPS, twitter.com/AcadiaNPS and www.instagram.com/acadianps.