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Falconry Ethics
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This document was developed by the NAFA Ethics Committee and originally produced in April, 2009 and approved by the NAFA Board of Directors on May 21, 2009.

POLICY:                                NAFA ETHICS POLICY

POLICY Number:                09-004  

POLICY Date:                      May 21, 2009

POLICY MODIFIED:          September 2018




Use of Raptors by Falconers

  1. Falconry is taking wild quarry in its natural state with a trained raptor.
  2. Falconry does not include the keeping of birds of prey as pets or prestige items, for captive-breeding purposes, for rehabilitation or education purposes, for shows, renaissance fairs and the like, or for purely scientific purposes.
  3. The justification for falconers to possess raptorial birds is the sportsmanlike pursuit of wild quarry.
  4. Because they use a natural resource, falconers have certain obligations to assure the continued availability of that resource locally as well as regionally, nationally, or globally.
    • The future survival of wild populations of birds of prey, should temper the activities of all falconers by using sound wildlife management principles.
    • The falconer will ensure that raptor nests are disturbed as little as possible and will ensure that all traces of human contact are removed (through the use of moth balls, for example).
    • At least one eyass shall be left in the nest.
    • Due to the high natural mortality rate of young wild raptors and the fact that wild adult birds represent breeding stock, falconers should acquire only eyass, passage, or captive-bred birds.
  5. Falconers are totally obligated to birds in their immediate possession.Their physical and psychological welfare is of the greatest importance.
    • Falconers should keep only as many birds as can be cared for properly and hunted effectively.
    • Unwanted birds should be passed on to fellow falconers or released in a manner which will assure their survival.
    • Every effort should be made to recover lost hawks, particularly imprinted eyasses that become lost.
    • Falconers should seek the aid of a competent veterinarian or other medical help should their bird become ill or injured.
    • Falconers should take all necessary steps to remove or mitigate the known risks of electrocution, engine exhaust (carbon monoxide) poisoning, injuries resulting from prey, collisions with fences, injury due to extremes of temperature, etc.


Legal Obligations of Falconers

Falconers must practice falconry in accordance with existing laws.

  1. State, federal and international laws which relate to all aspects of falconry should be understood and obeyed.
  2. A falconer convicted of a serious misdemeanor or a felony related to his falconry activities should resign from all organized falconry activities.
  3. Illegal forms of commercialism or trafficking in birds of prey, wild or captive-bred, are not in the best interests of falconry or the falconry community, since they lead to exploitation of wild populations, disrespect of the noble raptor, and damages to the honored sport of falconry.Falconers should have no part in such criminal activities.
  4. Any falconer with factual information concerning illegal trafficking in birds of prey should make such information available to the proper authorities. It is in the best interests of falconers to police their own ranks.
  5. Since lawful does not always mean ethical, falconers will err to the side of the highest standards of conduct towards their bird, their fellow falconers, and the laws of the land. Just because an activity is legal does not mean it is always desirable, ethical, or biologically sound.
  6. In addition, NAFA members have the obligation to comply with NAFA by-laws, and policies of the organization.


NAFA Positions on Ethics of Falconry

Underlying these positions is the following definition: “Falconry is taking wild quarry in its natural state with a trained raptor."

A. Raptor Maintenance
NAFA supports falconers in keeping, within regulatory entitlement, only those birds (both by species and numbers) that they can regularly fly at quarry. It is incumbent upon each falconer, in addition to meeting minimal standards required by regulation, to ensure that his/her birds are equipped, housed, and maintained in the manner most conducive to their individual well-being. Each falconer is urged to take all available measures to minimize the possibility of loss of his birds and to make every effort to recover any birds lost. Each falconer, likewise, is expected to spare no effort in curing a sick raptor. He is expected to ensure that if a raptor is no longer desired, it is passed on to another qualified falconer able to fly it at wild quarry or that it is returned to the wild with full capability of sustaining itself.

B. Compliance with Falconry Laws and Regulations
Each falconer is under a moral as well as a legal obligation to observe the laws and regulations of his own and foreign countries with regard to taking, importing and exporting raptors, the taking of quarry, and access to land.

C. Conservation of Raptors
The well being of our native raptor populations is fundamental to the continued practice of falconry. Each falconer, therefore, should endeavor to promote the utmost welfare and survival of these populations in their wild state in accordance with accepted precepts of use-management conservation. NAFA opposes the taking of haggards, or members of the wild breeding population, except under exceptional circumstances, (such as birds that would be destroyed due to depredation). NAFA urges that in taking eyass raptors, at least one young should be left in the eyrie/nest unless, again, exceptional circumstances prevail. NAFA opposes commercial traffic in wild-taken North American raptors regardless of private ownership status.NAFA does not support the creation of vendors in wild-taken raptors or of individual falconers profiting from the sale of wild-taken birds.

D. Fair Chase
Originally, falconry was a means of providing meat for the falconer’s table.In its purest form, falconry is a raptor doing what it does naturally – hunt its prey – in cooperation with a human.The laws of nature decree that a wild raptor pursuing wild quarry is a fair chase.Neither side has an unfair advantage over the other.This is the purest form of falconry, its highest ideal and practice.NAFA holds that modern falconry should be conducted in this same manner. Unfair advantage, no matter its source, should be avoided in favor of quarry having a fair chance of escape. This practice of fair chase is a high calling.Where falconers adhere to it, the sport of falconry cannot be judged guilty of acts of cruelty or inhumane treatment of quarry.

E. Sponsorship
The future of falconry rests in the hands of today’s falconry sponsors.The responsibilities of a sponsor to the apprentice, and the apprentice’s bird, are very serious.True sponsorship requires a high level of dedication, involvement, and personal sacrifice. Sponsoring an apprentice falconer is not to be taken lightly.It is more than signing a form. A falconry sponsor is responsible to the apprentice, to his/her raptor, and to the rest of the falconry community. Therefore, the falconry sponsor should be scrupulously legal, uncompromisingly ethical, and continually available to the apprentice.The falconry sponsor should be a highly competent falconer who hunts regularly and who is always aware of the apprentice’s activities and the condition of the apprentice’s bird.

F. Exotics
Based on extensive scientific scrutiny and historic evidence, NAFA supports the use of non-native (exotic) raptors - to include hybrids - in the practice of falconry in North America. Despite lack of scientific evidence of any threat to native avifauna, NAFA nonetheless counsels against any deliberate release into the wild of such raptors. NAFA assumes that falconers treat exotic raptors no differently than native raptors, regardless of the differences in their legal standing.

G. Captive Breeding
NAFA recognizes the importance of captive breeding as a significant source of birds for both falconry and release to the wild for restoration of wild populations, when necessary. NAFA concurs in the commercial sale of captive-bred progeny to appropriately licensed and qualified recipients as a way to encourage the production of captive-bred birds so that they will be available for both purposes.

H. Publicity
Falconers are cautioned about the dangers of publicity. Those considering public presentation are urged to consult NAFA's Public Information Officer. In general, the only two acceptable alternatives are the very highest quality presentation or no publicity at all. With or without publicity, application of discretion, moderation, and common sense by all falconers will go a long way toward maintaining a favorable image of our sport.Activities aimed at, or reasonably capable of, recruiting new falconers are to be avoided.Falconry is not for everyone and the decision to become an apprentice falconer should be carefully made.Falconers should not be overly solicitous when approached by someone wishing to become a falconer.Making sure they understand the true nature and requirements of falconry is the primary goal.

I. Private Ownership of Raptors
NAFA is a strong supporter of private ownership rights of captive bred falconry raptors, within the overall meanings of this policy.From a practical perspective however, NAFA’s position is that the well-being of raptors is a higher priority than the rights of the falconer.Falconers do not intentionally place their own interests above the well-being of their birds.Therefore, NAFA supports the current legal frameworks which allow only duly licensed persons to possess raptors for any purpose.

*This document was developed by the NAFA Ethics Committee. It was originally produced in April, 2009 and approved by the NAFA Board of Directors on May 21, 2009.

*This document was modified by the NAFA Board of Directors on September 20, 2018.

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