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plight of the peregrines

May. 30, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

RUSSELL, Ky. -- Nature can sometimes be cruel, as several Ohio Department of Natural Resource officials found out last Thursday.

Several Division of Wildlife officials found three baby peregrine falcon chicks dead Thursday when the Ohio Department of Natural Resources was in town to band the young birds, as they have every spring for more than a decade.

The division has been monitoring the peregrine falcons, who have nested beneath the Ironton-Russell Bridge since about 2001, said Jennifer Norris, wildlife research biologist for the division.

The division is still working with the Ohio Department of Transportation to put a nest box on the new bridge currently under construction. The existing 91-year-old bridge is set to be torn down in 2016. The new span is scheduled to open to traffic in the fall of 2015.

Wildlife officials didn't know how the chicks died, Norris said. At least one of the parent falcons is remaining in the area, giving hope that there will be some new falcon chicks at the site next spring, she said.

"I don't think the peregrines are gone from Ironton," she said. "They're very territorial."

Denise Fraley, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Rock Hill Middle School, has been bringing a class to the bridge to check on the young falcons since 2007.

"A few of them were sad," after hearing the news, Fraley said. "It was a letdown. They know sometimes this happens. This is nature."

The falcons face an uncertain future. Only about 50 percent of the falcons that are born in Ohio live one year.