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DOWNTOWN’S DEADLY KILLERS

By Nic.Korte

My friend and I drove up 8th street early that morning. There on top of the tower was the killer. Not only had he killed, he was ripping the now lifeless body to shreds.
We were watching a Peregrine Falcon devour what appeared to be a Rock Pigeon. The pigeon probably had no chance. Peregrines can reach 200 mph when in one of their power dives, called a stoop.

That we see Peregrines at all is one of the Conservation movement's greatest success stories. The widespread use of organochlorine pesticides, such as DDT, had caused thinning of the eggshells of Peregrines and other birds at the top of the food chain. This led to a widespread disappearance of Peregrines and to their listing as an endangered species. Once use of organochlorine pesticides was regulated, Peregrine Falcons, and other species (e.g. Bald Eagle, Brown Pelican) whose populations had plummeted, began to recover.

In recent years, it has become fashionable for some to portray Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, as a mass murderer because mosquitos continue to kill, and organochlorines are seldom used against them. This characterization of Carson is unfair and misleading. Her book was written, for example, before DNA was discovered. There was no EPA. There was no Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, no Superfund, no Toxic Substances Control Act, etc. Carson reacted to what was essentially fumigation. Clouds of DDT were doused on people and wildlife. She saw for herself an incident where fish died immediately after a large, indiscriminate application. Her overall warning was accurate.

Current naysayers also forget that DDT use had already been discontinued in some locations where it had formerly been effective, because the local mosquito population had developed resistance rendering applications ineffectual. Carson also did not call for DDT to be banned. “It is not my contention that chemical insecticides should never be used,” she wrote. “I do contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potential for harm... I contend, furthermore, that we have allowed these chemicals to be used with little or no advance investigation of their effects on soil, water, wildlife, or man himself.” She was right. And, indeed, DDT is still used, but in focused, careful applications, an approach that if used in the beginning, would have obviated the need for her book.

Grand Junction’s local Rock Pigeons may wish Rachel Carson had never written Silent Spring, but the rest of us can enjoy the resurgence of the fastest bird in the world. The last time I looked, there were a pair of falcons. (Check out the tower at 8th and Main.) As with many birds-of-prey, the female is slightly larger. Hopefully, they will nest on one of our downtown buildings and there will always be generations of Peregrines to keep the Rock Pigeons in check.

This post provided by Nic Korte, Grand Valley Audubon Society. Send questions/comments to audubongv@gmail.com. [To learn more and to participate in the activities of Grand Valley Audubon, please see our website at audubongv.org and “like” us on Facebook!]
 

COMMENTS

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nice post. well said. The last time I looked, there were a pair of falcons. (Check out the tower at 8th and Main.) As with many birds-of-prey, the female is slightly larger.
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