I’ve been a hunter for more than half a century and a falconer for 35 of those years. Falconry is an ancient hunting craft dating back some 4,000 years to Central Asia, where it was a practical means of putting meat on the table long before the advent of firearms.
It's where we've come from, and part of what makes us Homo sapiens. That’s why watching part of our heritage being disrespected and demeaned by one of our own is so hard to take.
Utilizing raptors protected at both state and federal levels, falconry is the most heavily regulated field sport in the country, and that’s as it should be. Time and again, falconry has been shown to have no significant impact on the resource, enabling us to take raptors from the wild and honor a partnership between man and raptor that has endured for millennia.
Although captive-bred raptors may legally be bought and sold for falconry, many falconers adhere to the tradition of taking a bird from the wild — a nestling, or the “passage” raptor, already on his own, typically taken during the fall migration.
Quite a number of wild-taken species adapt well to the falconry life and are often released at the end of the falconry hunting season, when they quickly revert to life in the wild.
It might be some consolation to know that removing a single chick from a raptor nest does not normally disrupt the nesting cycle, if at least one chick remains for the parent birds to raise.
But, in this case, that's not the point, and there's no justification for what took place in Little Chiques Park last month (“Town gives a hoot,” April 13 LNP | LancasterOnline).
In years past, I served as president of our state falconry group, the Pennsylvania Falconry & Hawk Trust, for three terms, getting to know a large percentage of the falconry community across the state. And I can assure you that none of the falconers with whom I associate would even consider pulling a bone-headed stunt such as this.
A highly visible raptor nest in a public park is a wonderful opportunity for nature lovers to get to know wildlife and encourage the public to save a space for nature on a planet where so much of the natural world is disappearing at a discouraging rate.
A nest in the public eye, like the park itself, is a nest in public ownership, and disturbing the nest is an abuse of conservation law and an affront to falconers and all others who would not care to live without wild places and wildlife.
Jack Hubley served as the outdoors editor for the Sunday News (which is now the Sunday edition of LNP | LancasterOnline) from 1982 to 2000. He lives in Mount Gretna.