PORT HADLOCK, Wash. — Most of Naval Magazine (NAVMAG) Indian Island’s 2,700 acres is untouched, pristine habitat for nature. Because of the untrammeled nature of the island, there is an abundance of wildlife. Navy Natural Resource Managers wanted to conduct a wildlife survey and are using motion detection trail cameras at NAVMAG to provide documentation.
The cameras have photographed cougars, deer, coyotes, otters, raccoons, hummingbirds, and more on the island. A bear has been sighted on the north side of NAVMAG, but the cameras have yet to capture a picture of the bear on the prowl. The large animal survey helps to determine the ratio of species on the island. The cameras also show the “circle of life,” as some animals rely on others for their food.
“The trail cameras provide scientific data about wildlife on Indian Island,” Sara Street, NAVMAG Natural Resources Manager, said. “The cameras aren’t out on the trails just for fun.”
The Natural Resources Manager particularly enjoys an up-close photo of a curious hummingbird recorded by one of the cameras. “Hummingbirds are so fast and so small, I didn’t expect the camera to pick one up” Street said. “I think the hummingbird was attracted to the red lens cover on the infrared flash.”
The cameras provide evidence of the various species present on the island and the ratio of wildlife. “We are looking at the health of the animals on the island,” Street said. “We are looking at where they congregate. We also like to keep track of the cougar’s travels.”
There are two cougars that currently frequent the island, a male and a female. The cougars have been seen jumping over the fence at NAVMAG or sometimes swimming across Kilisut Harbor to Marrowstone Island and back. There is even a photo of a cougar casually walking through the front gate.
The wildlife survey provides valuable information to support the Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan (INRMP). The INRMP guides policy makers in relationship to the natural resources on the island. The Natural Resource managers also use the INRMP to advise leadership as building projects are proposed on Indian Island.
Most recently, a contract to build power lines for shore-based power to the pier at NAVMAG was completed. The alignment of the power poles as part of that contract was considered in the INRMP. As part of the consideration, the power lines were moved around wetlands to protect the area.
The INRMP also maintains habitat for animals and directs planners to avoid the 10 known bald eagle nesting sites on the island.
The survey has shown a dramatic reduction in the coyote population on Indian Island in the past year. The coyotes appear healthy in photos from the trail cameras, but there are reduced numbers. “We haven’t determined causation yet,” Street said. “A year ago, people who work here were saying that the coyotes were becoming too bold.”
At the time, coyotes were reportedly peering into office windows, but with the population decline those reports have ceased. “I used to see groups of four coyotes in the cameras,” the Natural Resource Manager explained. “The ratio used to be about one coyote for every four deer photographed. Today, it’s about 30 deer to one coyote.”
An elk was also seen several years ago at NAVMAG, it stayed for about a week and then left. Security and ordnance workers have seen a bear wandering around the island. The animals haven’t acted aggressively towards people. The animals scamper away if people get too close to them. “The cougar is more curious than anything else,” Street said. “The female occasionally watches people. I think she just wants to see what is going on.”
Before working in natural resources, Street served active duty in the Navy from 2001-2005 as an Aviation Electronics Technician at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. She worked on the P-3 Orion aircraft radar system. After her Navy service, Street attended Oregon State University from 2005-2009, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology.
Street had to determine what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. She thought she would go to work for a state fish and wildlife department or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or the National Marine Fisheries Service. But she didn’t imagine she would be returning to work for the Navy.
Street was accepted in 2011 for the Navy’s Professional Development Career internship. Her first rotation was at Indian Island where she worked on inspection and compliance issues. One rotation took her back to NAS Whidbey Island, and another took her to Naval Base Kitsap – Bremerton.
NAVMAG’s environmental office is a two-person team which includes Street and Bill Kalina, Environmental Site Manager. They are responsible for eight environmental programs each. They like to refer to themselves as the one-person band.
“We are never bored,” Street said. “Everybody knows everyone else at NAVMAG so we help each other get things done.” When Street isn’t working, she enjoys driving her Jeep or practicing glassblowing, which she picked up about three years ago.
“I count on my Natural Resources managers to help me make the right decision,” said CDR Nick Vande Griend, NAVMAG commander. “This means the Navy can complete its mission and take care of the environment at the same time.”
While the nation’s military provides protection for America and her allies, the DOD likewise maintains a strong conservation effort at all its locations. So much so that creatures of all kinds congregate on the vast holdings of U.S. military installations. In fact, the DOD manages and protects 400 threatened and endangered species on 25 million acres of land across 420 military installations. The Defense Department now manages more species per acre than any other federal agency, including the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
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