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Cherie Rife-Smylie trains a Harris hawk.

Falconer

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New Mexico master falconer Tom Smylie will be featured at the Conservation and Wildlife Expo this weekend.

Smylie will present shows on Saturday and Sunday on the Wadena County Fairgrounds.

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Smylie, who happens to be a son-in-law of the late John Rife, is just as much a lover of conservation and the outdoors as his celebrated in-law. Before his retirement, Smylie was an assistant regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Smylie grew up in Iowa but once he saw the mountains he was hooked on them, just as he was hooked on the peregrine falcon. Smylie has followed peregrine falcons all over the western United States to Alaska, Greenland and the islands of the Caribbean.

Smylie is also responsible for helping save the swift hunter. By the late 1960s, the insecticide DDT had virtually wiped out peregrines in the United States and placed them on the Endangered Species list. DDT weakened the eggs shells or birds of prey and killed the chicks.

It was at a low moment for peregrines that Smylie contributed four peregrines he found in the mountains to The Peregrine Fund at Cornell University in New York. The contribution led to the first hatchlings in captivity. Since that time DDT has been banned in the United States and through the contributions of falconers like Smylie, thousands of peregrines have been raised and released into the wild.

Peregrines are the fastest bird in the sky. They have been clocked in a dive at 242 miles per hour. They can accelerate from 100 to 200 miles an hour in just eight seconds.

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