To protect Prairie Falcon nesting sites, the National Park Service will temporarily close climbing routes along the west and northeast face of Devils Tower beginning March 15th. The areas to be closed include all pitches of climbing routes between and including “No Holds for Bonzo” and “Accident Victim” on the west face. On the northeast face, routes between and including “Belle Fourche Buttress” and “Maid in the Shaid” will be closed. All pitches terminating at the “Teacher’s Lounge” will remain open. In addition, the entire west and northeast edges of the Tower Summit will be off limits to climbers. Climbers may ask at the visitor center or administration building to see a list of all closed routes.
National Park Service professionals will survey the tower to determine the presence or absence of nesting prairie falcons. Areas without nesting falcons will be reopened by May 15th. Areas with falcon nests will remain closed until young falcons fledge, generally between July 15 and August 1. The closure areas may change based on the location of nesting pairs.
Prairie falcons are extremely defensive of their nests and are easily driven from the area. The presence of climbers near or above falcon nests is distressing to parent birds. Too much disturbance from climbing activities may force falcons to abandon eggs or chicks. The closure is implemented not only for the protection of the species, but also for the protection of climbers, as falcons are known to defensively dive in order to protect their nests.
Prior observations suggest prairie falcons are using the Tower with an affinity for the west or northeast faces. Two young falcons fledged from nests on the Tower in 1996, 1998 and 1999. Observations also indicate an adult northern goshawk (Accipiter gentiles) hunting on the Tower. Interactions between falcons and goshawks are poorly understood. Both bird species are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Separate from the falcon closure, Devils Tower National Monument has a voluntary climbing closure in effect for the month of June, out of respect for American Indian cultural traditions. For further information on the climbing closures please contact the monument’s Chief of Resource Management, Jim Cheatham, at (307) 467-5283 ext 12.