Hawk Mountain: From Hunting to Conservation

Being at the top of the food chain, raptors—birds of prey—are key indicators of the health of our environment. As their food sources increase and decline, so do raptor populations, providing valuable information that has the potential to benefit all species. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, in Kempton, Pennsylvia, studies raptors with an eye toward conserving them and the conditions that help them flourish.

Hawk Mountain, the world's first refuge for birds of prey, was initially a hunting spot. During the Great Depression, Pennsylvania's Game Commission offered a reward of $5 for every goshawk killed, in a widespread effort to eradicate wildlife predators. In 1931, amateur ornithologist Richard Pough, who lived in the area, joined a growing number of conservationists who opposed the eradication project. When he visited the place that locals called "Hawk Mountain," he found gunners shooting hundreds of hawks for sport. The photographs he took were eventually seen by New York conservation activist Rosalie Edge.

In 1934, Mrs. Edge leased 1,400 acres of Hawk Mountain property and installed New England bird enthusiast Maurice Broun as the warden there, along with his wife and bird conservation partner Irma Broun. The shooting stopped immediately. The following year, Mrs. Edge opened the Sanctuary for the public to see—but not hunt—birds of prey. She then purchased and deeded the 1,400 acres to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association, which was incorporated in 1938 as a non-profit organization.

Today, Hawk Mountain is an education and science center. Activities year-round teach people of all ages about raptors and their role in the ecosystem. Listen to Ray's interview with Hawk Mountain Naturalist Laurie Goodrich on our show of September 20, 2015.