- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Baltimore County resident Bill Barbour says he was surprised to hear a mention of his favorite sport — falconry — in the news last week.

As part of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s statewide rollback of fees announced in May, the Department of Natural Resources has cut the annual falconry permit fee from $25 to $10 for the approaching hunting season. The Republican governor’s directive to eight state agencies, including Natural Resources, aims to save taxpayers an estimated $10.2 million per year.

While Mr. Barbour said he was happy to pay the annual fee of $25, he’s even happier paying a reduced rate.

“Fifteen dollars in my pocket goes further than $15 in Maryland’s pocket,” the falconer said.

Mr. Barbour is one of 111 registered falconers in Maryland and about 4,000 nationwide — practitioners of a sport that dates back thousands of years and today is closely regulated at the state and national levels. Participants are required to purchase multiple licenses and permits to engage in the training of falcons and other raptors for small-game hunting.

Glenn Therres, associate director of the Department of Natural Resources, said his agency followed the governor’s directive, and evaluated fee structures and reduced falconry permit fees, as well as permit fees for capturing peregrine falcons. Both are now $10.


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In Maryland, applying for and paying for a license does not guarantee a would-be falconer the opportunity to capture his or her own bird. Peregrine falcons once were an endangered species, but their numbers have rebounded to sufficient levels to supply the sport of falconry.

National restrictions allow a total of only two peregrine falcons to be captured in the wild in Maryland each year. As many as 20 applicants can attempt to capture a falcon each year, but when two have been caught, all applicants must stop their capture efforts, reapply for a permit and pay another fee to try again next year.

Mr. Barbour trains merlin falcons — a smaller, fierce cousin of peregrine falcons known for bringing down small songbirds and shorebirds such as doves and sparrows.

For Mr. Barbour, whose interest in birds began as a child, catching your own bird is the only option. A firm believer in traditional falconry, he builds his own equipment and traps his own birds.

“At the end of the day, it is about the art form and the bird doing what it would do in nature,” Mr. Barbour said.

While the actions of the bird are natural, building a relationship between a bird and its handler requires considerable time and effort, the longtime falconer said.

Marylanders interested in falconry can start young by applying for an Apprentice Class permit at the age of 14.

The state requires that permit applicants complete an apprenticeship learning under a licensed falconer for at least two years. They also must pass a supervised examination administered by the Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Heritage Service.

Mr. Therres said that there does not appear to be any threat of illegal bird capture or falconry in Maryland, despite the state’s tough restrictions.

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