Falconers have been trapping and training raptors for thousands of years. While certain governments (or royal families) might have placed restrictions on this, the US had no restrictions until the 1970s. Raptors were considered vermin and persecuted until the mid-1900s. The US Government hired hunters to shoot raptors and even offered bounties on specific species (such as Northern Goshawks). Falconers long spoke out against the persecution of hawks and falcons. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MTBA) of 1918 did not include the protection of raptors until it was amended in 1972.
For more information on the legal evolution of falconry, (as well as specific accounts of US falconry in the 1600s) read Falconry- Legal Ownership and Sale of Captive-Bred Raptors by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Falconers are licensed and legally allowed to either buy raptors from Captive Breeding programs or to take raptors from the wild as either nestlings, fledglings, in passage (in migration). While the take of wild raptors has been allowed throughout time, the USFWS published an Environmental Assessment (EA) in 2007 which found that falconers take of wild raptors had no impact on wild raptor populations. The report found, “as noted in Millsap and Allen (2006), the take of raptors for falconry and raptor propagation will
have no discernible effect on nesting populations.”
Falconry in the US has been regulated by State and Federal Agencies since 1972. Below is a list of key regulations and changes in the permitting and licensing of Falconry.
First Regulations (1976) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) began the process of legalizing the sport of falconry in 1972. The federal agency proposed a rule with two comments periods, one in 1973 and one in 1974, where they received 16,000 comments. The 1976 Federal Regulations required that states legalize falconry in order to be in compliance with the USFWS. States that did not legalize the sport, would lose the right to allow falconry.
Environmental Assessment (June 2007) The USFWS issued a Final Environmental Assessment (EA) with a Finding Of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on the Take of Raptors from the Wild for their use in Falconry and Propagation.
Final Regulations (2008) The USFWS published their Final Falconry Regulations under 50 CFR part 21 (Migratory Bird Permits) stating that the federal falconry permit would be eliminated in favor of state permitting as long as state regulations were at least as restrictive as federal guidelines.
STATE (OREGON) REGULATIONS
First Restrictions (1972) Oregon Game Commission (now Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission) states that you can possess a raptor, but you cannot hunt waterfowl or upland game in falconry. The State allows no provision for wild take of raptors, but allows raptors to be transferred to Oregon falconers from another state.
Falconry Not Allowed in Oregon (1976) In 1976, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission failed to adopt Falconry Regulations (by a 3 to 4 vote), and in doing so, failed to meet Federal Regulations. By default, falconry was not allowed in Oregon. ODFW Staff spoke out against allowing falconry in Oregon based on projected economic costs (assuming 225 falconers by 1981 and $20,000+ for Law Enforcement, Raptor Monitoring, and Regulations). License fees were limited by law, and ODFW Staff & Commission wanted the regulation of the sport to be self-funded through fees.
First Regulations (1977) ODFW adopted falconry regulations in September 1977 (effective 1 January 1978) after four long years of work from the Oregon Committee for Legal Falconry and Raptor Management (from 1974-1977), including work with Senator Fred Heard to pass a state bill in 1977 (SB 394) allowing an increase in fees for licensing.
Revisions and Amendments (1990, 2002, 2011) Amendments to the Oregon Administrative Rules (OARs) on Falconry Licenses, Permits and Requirements were made in 1990, 2002, and 2011.
Peregrine Falcon take (2008-2011) The USFWS removed the American and Arctic Peregrine Falcons from the federal Threatened and Endangered Species List in 1999. However, it was not until 2007 that ODFW delisted both Peregrine Falcon subspecies in Oregon. Following state delisting, ODFW issued 7 permits for the legal take of wild peregrine falcon eyases (nestlings) and fledglings in 2008. Amendments addressing the wild take of the Peregrine Falcon were made annually from 2008 to 2011.
State-only Permitting (2011) In August, 2011, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted amendments to Oregon Administrative Rules Chapter 635, Division 55, Falconry Licenses, Permits and Requirements. The New Falconry Regulations were approved by USFWS in November 2011. This qualified ODFW to regulate falconry within the national framework and issue state-only falconry licenses in Oregon.