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Biologists Attempt Rescue of Baby Peregrine Falcons From Western Span of The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Pacific Gas and Electric Company Supports the University of California Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group’s Wildlife Conservation Efforts with a $20,000 Contribution

Release Date: May 19, 2008
Contact: PG&E External Communications (415) 973-5930

SAN FRANCISCO – Biologists with the University of California Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group (SCPBRG) today will attempt a daring rescue of peregrine falcon eyases from underneath the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Because bridges are lethal locations for fledging birds, the rescue effort is critical to ensure the endangered falcons have a better chance of survival.

“We’ve been watching the adults closely, and we know that hatching has occurred,” said Glenn Stewart, program manager for the UC Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group. “We want to rescue the babies before they fledge into the water or onto the roadway.”

Rescuers won’t know how many eggs have hatched until they get to the nest today. Once the babies are safely off the bridge, they will be taken to the SCPBRG’s facility in Santa Barbara County where they will eventually be released into the wild.

Past bridge rescue efforts have paid big dividends for the SCPBRG. Currently there are four adult peregrines breeding in the Bay Area who were once rescued off a bridge when they were babies. Among these is the male half of San Francisco’s most famous peregrine couple, George and Gracie. George himself was rescued off the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in 1999.

For five years from 2003 through 2007, George and Gracie spent their nesting season in San Francisco’s Financial District, including three years when the peregrine pair chose the 33rd floor of PG&E’s building at 77 Beale Street as their nest site. In 2005, PG&E installed a web cam just outside George and Gracie’s nest box so SCPBRG scientists and peregrine fans from around the world could observe the falcons through the internet and learn more about how this endangered species has been able to adapt to an urban environment.

“We are proud to support the SCPBRG’s efforts to protect wildlife and educate thousands of children each year about birds of prey,” said Ophelia Basgal, vice president of civic partnership and community initiatives at Pacific Gas and Electric Company. “The SCPBRG has been a valuable partner in helping PG&E pioneer cutting edge practices to keep birds safe from power lines.”

Last April, George and Gracie were involved in a territorial battle for San Francisco’s Financial District with two other peregrines from the East Bay area. George and Gracie left San Francisco last year and did not return this year. The East Bay birds are now nesting in the Financial District and laid their clutch of eggs on the western span of the Bay Bridge.

In 2007, George and Gracie also nested on the Bay Bridge. The SCPBRG rescued those eggs and brought them back to Santa Cruz where one of their offspring, known as “Little G”, was raised by a foster peregrine mother and later released into the wild. This year biologists waited until the eggs hatched and will attempt to rescue the eyases before they fledge. The SCPBRG has done intensive monitoring of peregrine falcons that nest on the Bay Bridge and other bridges around California. They have learned that bridges are lethal environments for fledging falcons because they drown beneath the bridge or land on the roadbed where they are run over by vehicles.

In an urban environment, peregrines nest on tall city structures that are similar to the sheer cliffs they prefer in nature. SCPBRG began noticing peregrine falcons using PG&E’s downtown sky scraper as a perch in the mid 1980s and placed a nest box on the ledge of the 33rd floor with hopes that someday peregrines might nest there. Finally in 2003 George and Gracie called San Francisco home when they selected PG&E’s building as their nesting site. Since then, the utility has teamed up with the SCPBRG to look after the birds that are the fastest animals on the planet.

Peregrines are both fully protected and endangered species in California. The peregrine population declined to zero known nesting pairs east of the Mississippi, and just two known nesting pairs in California by 1970. Today, there are an estimated 250 peregrine falcon nesting pairs in California.

PG&E recently received Audubon California’s first-ever Corporate Achievement Award recognizing the utility’s significant achievements in protecting California birds and important habitat. In addition to PG&E’s ongoing efforts to help protect peregrine falcons, the utility has also created a migratory bird protection program and installed an extensive network of bird-safe equipment in Big Sur to protect the California Condor.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation, is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to 15 million people in northern and central California. For more information, visit www.pge.com.

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