Yuma Myotis Bat (Myotis yumanensis)
“Wildlife viewing is highly encouraged,” Leslie said. “It helps one develop an appreciation for the natural world and things with which we share this planet! However, please follow all base policies with regard to taking photos and do not disturb their natural habitat.”
These flying critters are protected as non-game species under California Fish and Game Code 3513.
“Like all other species, owls and bats play a role and have a function in the ecosystem,” Leslie explained. “Owls hunt rodents, and bats hunt bugs, which are carriers of the disease. All predators that feed on vermin and bugs reduce the abundance of that population, which ultimately decreases the probability of disease transmission to humans.”
Some of the protections in place extend to the environment itself, which is home for the myriad wildlife on base, to include homes, dens, nests, food, and water sources.
“People are not allowed to just cut down trees, especially during the migratory bird breeding season, which is March through September,” Leslie said. “Keep in mind that birds do not use calendars and can breed in February and into October! During the breeding season, birds will be nesting, which includes laying eggs and raising chicks. If nests are disturbed, some species will abandon the nest, thus reducing its ability to survive. This is considered a ‘take’. Taking of migratory birds is a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and is punishable by both fines and jail time. All vegetation removal and tree trimming requires pre-clearance surveys. Contact Environmental Division Natural Resources Program at 760-577-6744 for assistance.”
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act was established in 1918 due to widespread over-hunting in the 1800s and 1900s, mainly because of market hunting for the use of feathers for woman’s hats.
“Unregulated hunting was rampant with no seasonal restrictions, no bag limits, and all species could be hunted,” Leslie explained. “Several species to include the Great Auk (1852), Labrador Duck (1878), and Carolina Parakeet were extinct by 1900 due to hunting, egg collection, and habitat loss. Passenger pigeons, which once darkened the skies of the Eastern U.S., went extinct in 1914.”
Earlier in 1916, the Migratory Bird Treaty with Canada defined which species are covered, set hunting seasons for game, closed hunting seasons and created a system of permits for scientific collecting and agriculture pests.
“Finally, in 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act between the U.S. and Canada was enacted by Congress using the Constitution’s Treaty Power as authorization,” Leslie said. “Three other countries have been added to include Mexico (1936), Japan (1972), and Russia (1976).”
The MBTA prohibits taking “at any time, by any means or in any manner…any migratory bird, or any part (feathers, etc.), nest, or egg of any such bird” unless authorized. It does allow for incidental take, which is take that is accidental and not intended as part of an action.
“There are currently 1,026 species protected under the MBTA,” said Leslie. “It is important because many species would have gone extinct if not for the act. It protects both migratory and resident birds that are native to the U.S. or its territories. Several species excluded include: rock pigeon, English/house sparrow, and European Starling. Several Nuisance species such as the Common Raven are protected under the MBTA, but have increased dramatically and caused significant damage to endangered and protected species such as the Desert Tortoise. However, permits for management of such species can be obtained from the USFWS.”
It is common for employees and families aboard MCLB Barstow to encounter wildlife. If you see a baby bird, owl, or other creature out of their nest, please leave it alone.
“Do not attempt to catch or rescue anything unless absolutely necessary to avoid death at the immediate moment,” Leslie said. “Most likely, the parents are nearby and can continue to protect and feed it, although it has fallen out of the nest. It is a misconception that baby animals that are left alone need rescuing. Often the parent or parents are out catching prey and return to an empty nest or den due to ‘rescue efforts,’ but the parent animal will begin to search for their young. As birds began to fly, they will fall, especially birds that outgrow their nests! It is part of the process.”
Although it may seem inhumane to some people not to intervene and help, people can often make things worse by intervening. There are also important health risks to take into account.
“Due to the recent outbreak of Newcastle Disease, wildlife rehabilitation facilities are not taking any raptor or avian species, therefore making rehabilitation less likely,” Leslie said. “If you encounter a fallen owl or other raptor species such as hawks or eagles, please contact the Environmental Division at 760-577-6744 and they will make a determination and take appropriate actions to assist the wildlife.