Photo credit: Allastair Franke. The peregrine falcon was assessed for the first time in the Northwest Territories this year and was determined to be not-at-risk.

Photo credit: Allastair Franke. The peregrine falcon was assessed for the first time in the Northwest Territories this year and was determined to be not-at-risk.

Peregrine Falcon assessed not-at-risk in NWT

The peregrine falcon has been assessed as being not-at-risk in the Northwest Territories as part of a national trend of recovery for the bird.

The Species At Risk Committee (SARC), which as an independent committee under the NWT’s Species at Risk Act reviews the biological status of wildlife in the NWT, assessed the falcon for the very first time in the NWT in May.

The falcon was one of three animals in the NWT examined by SARC from May 2 to 5, with the other two species being the Tǫdzı (Boreal caribou) and the Peary caribou.

The Special Status Report on the Peregrine Falcon noted that the bird’s population is currently considered stable and potentially increasing across the NWT.

Current estimates, according to the report, show that there are between 3,500 to 7,000 peregrine falcons in the NWT. The falcon remains resilient and adaptable among many continuing threats that include bioaccumulation of pollutants, declining numbers in prey species, parasites and disease, human disturbance, and effects of climate change.

Pesticide levels, the report states, which have long-been a threat to the bird – “are low enough so not to cause a risk to numbers.”

SARC issued a news release on May 10 stating that climate change impacts are “uncertain and are likely to unfold gradually”.

Moise Rabesca of Behchokǫ̀ is the Wek’èezhìı Renewable Resources Board (WRRB) representative on the SARC committee.

Aimee Guile is the alternate member on the committee.

A hopeful sign for the bird 

WRRB Executive Director Jody Pellissey said the development represents a hopeful sign for a bird that has long-been under watch nationally due to its endangered status.

“It was assessed as not at risk and it is a positive story,” Pellissey said.  “Across Canada, they are being down-listed to not at risk.

“The peregrine falcon is one of the few species that we have where following the Species at Risk process, we've been able to down-list nationally (an animal at risk). Usually that doesn't happen.”

The report offered recommendations that could aim to help the stabilizing population of birds continue including that more Indigenous and Cultural Knowledge data is needed to monitor the birds as well as their habitat and prey.

Additionally, the report stated that climate change and its potential impacts on the falcon’s population should be taken into strong consideration.

Pellissey said the peregrine falcon’s recovery has spanned over multiple decades after numbers across Canada began to decline due to excessive pesticides in the environment.

“Back in the seventies and eighties, there was a heavily, concerted effort by Environment Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Federation to hatch birds with a research station in Wainwright, AB,” Pellissey said.

“Their declining status came after findings, especially after Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, that DDT was being seen. It wasn’t killing the birds but causing the shells to be so thin that the eggs were being crushed.”

Tǫdzı and Peary Caribou

SARC also examined the tǫdzı and Peary Caribou during the same sessions in May.

Both species were reassessed as Threatened by the committee; however, co-management authorities are still in the process of reviewing the statuses to provide potential comments over the summer.

A full story will be provided in the fall newsletter.