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Continued: A look at falconry in Minnesota

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 23, 2014 - 7:53 PM

He teaches advance-placement biology and field biology. His classroom resembles a natural-history museum.

His students incubate quail eggs, wade in trout streams to study insect life, measure the tines of white-tailed deer antlers, and care for the breeding pair of peregrine falcons perched in a specially constructed annex just down the hallway.

All the while they gain an appreciation for the earth’s wild things and their dependence on wild places.

Weaver’s own love of birds, particularly birds of prey, was sparked as a youngster.

“I grew up in Anoka, and my brother and I mowed lawns to get money to buy ducks, which we kept around our house,’’ he said.

While preparing to enter college at the University of Minnesota, Morris, Weaver happened upon a book, “North American Falconry and Hunting Hawks,’’ by Frank L. Beebe and Harold M. Webster Jr.

“That book changed my life,’’ said Weaver, who is a past president of the Minnesota Falconers Association, and who flew his first hawk while attending college.

But interest in falconry, and practicing it, are two different things. The state and federal governments have strict licensing requirements, and the ownership and care of birds of prey are closely regulated.

Example: A Minnesota apprentice falconer’s license can only be achieved after a written test is passed and a conservation officer inspects a prospect’s equipment and care facilities.

A mentor also is required to oversee the novice falconer’s first two years.

“Redtails are the most common birds to fly for apprentices,’’ Weaver said. “They’re pretty easy to train.’’

Two years after an initial license is issued, a general falconer’s license can be sought, assuming the mentor approves the application. Five years after that, a master falconer’s license can be applied for, a designation required to take young raptors from nests and to fly species such as peregrine falcons.

Nearly extinct in the U.S. a half-century ago due to the proliferation of DDT and other pesticides, peregrines are capable of 200-mile-an-hour predatory flights.

Dr. Patrick Redig, co-founder of the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota, is, like Weaver, a scientist who has long practiced falconry.

Redig and the late Dr. Bud Tordoff of the Bell Museum of Natural History at the U played key roles in the peregrine’s recovery when they launched the Midwest Peregrine Falcon Restoration Project in 1982.

Weaver among other falconers aided the restoration by releasing and tending captive-bred young birds on the tops and ledges of tall buildings, smokestacks and bridges.

In 1999, the peregrine was removed from the endangered species list.

Weaver and Redig’s conservation credentials, together with those of other Minnesota falconers, make curious a spat that has divided them in recent months from their regulatory overseers at the Department of Natural Resources.

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  • Master licensed falconer Andrew Weaver with his five year-old female Red-tailed hawk on a successful rabbit hunting outing near a wooded sub division Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, in Stillwater

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  • Master licensed falconer Andrew Weaver used a leather hood to limit outside stimuli and calm this female peregrine falcon.

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