(Above) Like all peregrines, Aurora loves to hunt and will chase just about anything she sees. Photo by Carol Washburn.
Opportunity to capture, train wild peregrine falcon makes Washburn’s heart soar
by Lowell Washburn
The North Woods Capture: If Jack Vooge had lost one more drop of blood; I should have called for a Medivac. I was springing a leak or two myself, but my injuries were nothing compared to the sight of Jack’s hands and wrist. Meat grinder was the term that came to mind.
It was early October in northern Minnesota; and we were engaged in the painful process of removing an entangled peregrine falcon from the webbing of our mist net. Utilizing its hooked beak with machine gun rapidity, the enraged female was snipping away chunks of human hide with all the efficiency of a woodpecker tearing into a rotting log.
Ben Ohlander was our party’s third member. A world authority on northern goshawks, the Denmark native has trapped hundreds of migrating hawks. To put our situation into perspective, Ben noted that he had never seen a hawk as wild as this one, nor had he ever witnessed a bird that bit so freely or with such devastating effect.
Don’t get me wrong. No one was complaining. Netting a wild peregrine is always a stellar accomplishment. But for me, the event had an even greater significance. The captured falcon represented the big-time payoff of an intense, two-year quest aimed at obtaining a wild peregrine to be used in falconry -- the ancient art of hunting wild game with a trained raptor. Critically endangered during the 1970s, peregrine populations have recovered to the extent that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has currently sanctioned a limited take of young-of-the-year birds for falconry. Iowa and Minnesota are each granted five peregrine permits annually, and trapping dates are timed to intercept arctic nesting [tundrius] falcons enroute to SouthTo read more of this article, please login or sign up for our E-Edition