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At Camp Pendleton, bison are home on the range

November 4, 2008 |  6:52 am

bison

Camp Pendleton is home to thousands of Marines, of course. But it turns out it's also home to 147 bison. Yes, bison. As The Times' Tony Perry reports, the woolly beasts give parts of the base an Old West ambiance:

Once, the bison surrounded a vehicle containing the commandant, blocking his way. The four stars on his collar gave him absolute authority over 170,000 Marines but meant nothing to the bison. He waited until the beasts, in their haughty, self-assured manner, slowly decided to move.

It all started in the mid-1970s, when the San Diego Zoo gave a dozen bison, which it did not have space for, to Camp Pendleton. Space was not a problem at the 125,000-acre base.

The federal Department of the Interior -- which features the bison on its seal -- manages about 7,000 bison in seven national wildlife refuges and five national parks. There's a smallish group in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park and a herd at a nature preserve on Catalina Island.

The rest of the nation's half a million bison are mostly on privately owned lands. The Camp Pendleton population, given its isolation, may prove a genetic boon to species preservation efforts.

Read Perry's full report and see the photo gallery by Don Barletti here.

-- Steve Padilla

Photo credit: Don Barletti / Los Angeles Times

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