Steps required to become a licensed falconer:

Apprentice falconer

File an application, letter of recommendation from a sponsor, and valid hunting license or license exemption with the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Special Permits Division in Harrisburg, as well as a letter from the applicant's local government stating that there are no ordinances prohibiting the possession of a raptor for use in falconry in that jurisdiction. A $25 fee also is required.

Once an application has been approved, the applicant needs to score at least 80 percent on a 150-question exam covering laws and regulations, raptor biology and identification, trapping methods, facility requirements, care of raptors held for falconry, diseases and health problems of raptors, and training methods.

The facilities where birds will live are required to be inspected by a local wildlife conservation officer, followed by approval at the law enforcement supervisor level in the PGC's regional office. Then the applicant must pay a $50 permit fee.

General falconer

Apprentice falconers must meet all criteria and regulations for housing and keeping food and equipment for birds, under the supervision of a sponsor, for a minimum of two years. Sponsors assist with trapping an immature (less than 1 year old) red-tailed hawk or American kestrel (the most common and smallest species of falcon). Falconers need to maintain at least one bird for 12 straight months, which includes flying the bird for the purpose of hunting, and face annual inspection of facilities.

After the two-year period, sponsors can submit letters of recommendation to the PGC for apprentices to gain general status, which allows falconers to have two birds from a diverse list of species. They can become sponsors to apprentices after two years as general falconers.

Master falconer

General falconers need to stay active in falconry and maintain their permits for a minimum of five years to request master status, which allows them to have more than two birds from a more diverse list. They also face inspection of facilities.

For more information on becoming a falconer, go to: www.pgc.pa.gov/HuntTrap/Hunting/Falconry/Pages/default.aspx.

- Erie Times-News