CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
As the world becomes more industrialized and the Californian countryside becomes increasingly crowded, habitats for many local animals are at greater risk from natural disasters and urbanization. To combat this threat, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton has developed several programs to safeguard the multitude of endangered species that call the base home.
One such initiative is Camp Pendleton’s wildlife Water Guzzler Program.
A water guzzler consists of a tub and bucket that collects water during the wet season and has a ramp for smaller animals to access it when natural water levels get low. Service members and civilians worked together to install Pendleton's newest water guzzler near the X-Ray Impact Area, Jan. 15.
U.S. Marine Col. Tim Anderson, the chief of staff for Marine Corps Installations West, MCB Camp Pendleton, sees the importance of this program and dedicates time to serve as a volunteer to help install water guzzlers on the base.
“The guzzler program is a way to provide water to hundreds of animals during the dry seasons when wildland fires and drought threaten the sustainment and repopulation of the 19 endangered animals who reside on Camp Pendleton, their home,” said Anderson.
Michael Tucker, the chief game warden for Camp Pendleton, also serves a vital role in the base’s animal conservation program. Tucker closely monitors the many habitats aboard the installation and keeps account of all local wildlife populating the local area.
“This program is vital to the wildlife on Camp Pendleton.” Michael Tucker, Camp Pendleton chief game warden
“The land that Camp Pendleton resides on can only be found in this area of the world,” said Tucker. “The Marine Corps has done a great service in preserving 220 square miles of land with a habitat that is so unique. Many of the endangered animals we house can only live in the natural conditions found in Southern California. So instead of having extinct species we just have endangered species.”
The guzzler program is one of many initiatives established by Camp Pendleton designed to strengthen environmental stability and wildlife preservation, and continues to see much support from senor leaders across the installation.
“Camp Pendleton has pledged to be environmentally responsible,” said Anderson. “Environmental management is one, but so is game preservation as well.”
The idea of using the practice of hunting as an aspect of wildlife conservation may seem counterintuitive at first. However, regulated hunting ensures a natural homeostasis that is vital to the overall health and stability of local habitats and wildlife population. To safeguard this delicate balance, game wardens and Marines aboard the base are allowed to hunt specific populations of animals that are competing for limited resources, down to a stable number that are able to thrive on available pasturage.
U.S. Marine Master Sgt. Brett O’Mara, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing regional fire chief, is an advocate of game preservation and stresses the importance of Camp Pendleton’s conservation programs.
A Healthy Environment
Photo by Lance Cpl. Hope Straley
U.S. Marines and civilians listen to a water guzzler installation brief by Mike Tucker, the chief game warden for Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, before installing a guzzler near the X-Ray Impact Area on Camp Pendleton, Calif., Jan. 15, 2022. Water guzzlers have been a vital part of animal conservation since the early years of Camp Pendleton. There are 19 endangered species on the base that rely on the water guzzlers each day in order to maintain a healthy population.
“The guzzlers have trail cameras that will record all of the animals who come to take advantage of the resource,” said O’Mara. “Through those recordings we can monitor the condition, for example of the mule deer, and know how their health is. If the game wardens notice a lot of deer who look starved and the foliage is depleting quickly, then that’s a good indicator that the population is too big. If they are overweight then we know the deer need space to repopulate.”
Local weather conditions also play a key factor as to how well wildlife thrive any given year.
“If it's a heavy drought season, the guzzlers get more attention,” said Tucker. “This program is vital to the wildlife on Camp Pendleton.”
As a dedicated steward of the environment, Camp Pendleton is able to establish and employ these conservation efforts as a result of the persistence and dedication of its staff and army of volunteers that personally ensure the natural stability aboard the base. Without the continued assistance from these programs and personnel, endangered wildlife aboard Camp Pendleton would be at a greater risk of failing.
For more information about the conservation efforts and the hunting regulations on base, please visit pendleton.isportsman.net.