Man has forged working relationships with other species, from barnyard fowl to horses, dogs, and cows, adapting their behavior through selective breeding to better serve his needs.
But falconers have resisted the temptation to domesticate. Today, as of old, they trap young adults, train them, hunt with them until the birds reach full sexual maturity, and ultimately return to them to the wild. The birds hatch, breed, and die outside captivity. I can’t think of another instance where man has enlisted aid from a creature without attempting to change its essential nature.
The trained birds kill no animals that they would not have otherwise hunted on their own. And while there is no perfect relationship between humanity and wildness – I suspect a mouse snapped up by a coyote would tell us there is no perfect relationship in the wild, period – falconry represents a sensitivity that is hard to find elsewhere in human experience: the bird willing to return if asked; the falconer willing, at some point, to refrain from the request.
From «Call of the Wild» by Teresa Jordan in the November | December 2006 issue of Orion