Up to 10 young peregrine falcons will be released in the Payette National Forest next year, the first release in the forest since the endangered species' numbers declined drastically decades ago.

It also will be one of 10 releases totaling at least 30 falcons planned statewide this summer.Using falcon chicks hatched in captivity at The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey south of Boise, the Payette National Forest and Department of Fish and Game plan to set up a "hack box" about 30 miles north of Council. A "hack box" is an artificial nest.

Bill Noblitt, wildlife biologist for the forest, said the release site, in the "High Dive" area just south of the Seven Devils Mountains, was picked to reduce predation from owls and eagles. The location also should balance two other release sites in central Idaho.

"The site is designed as an intermediate site to tie them all together," Noblitt said.

The other two sites are located on Boise Cascade Corp. timber land near Cascade and atop a Nez Perce National Forest lookout near Riggins.

"Initially, we wanted to put them in Hells Canyon, but there's too many great horned owls and golden eagles up there," he said. "But this site is above tree line, and predation is less likely."

In contrast to urban releases of peregrine falcons, such as last summer in Boise, juvenile birds released in the wild must survive in the world of nature. Noblitt said a golden eagle was found roosting on one of the old hack boxes in the Nez Perce forest, waiting for more falcons to eat.

Lisa Langelier, a spokesman for The Peregrine Fund, said great horned owls come after peregrine chicks at night, eating all the young and killing the adult female as well, if she is present.

Peregrine falcons once were abundant in Idaho but their numbers fell sharply starting in the late 1940s because of the use of chemicals such as DDT.