MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- The Combat Center Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs division responded to a wildlife call inside the Exercise Support Division motor pool compound Tuesday.
The call came after Billy Fleig, tank mechanic, walked by a tank to gather some tools from his shed. He said as he stepped near the track of an M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank, he heard the chilling and familiar sound of a rattle.
“It sounded so close that I starting looking out and around,” said Fleig. “But then I looked down and it was right there. I’ve never seen one that close before.”
A 3-to 4-year-old speckled rattle snake laid curled in the shade of the tank less than two feet from Fleig’s foot.
Fleig said he jumped back and immediately called his boss, Ron Davis, tanks section supervisor, and warned fellow workers about the reptile. Davis then called NREA to report the find.
Steve Selser, NREA biology scientist technician, responded to the call, bringing the necessary capture gear.
When he arrived, he used a hook to snag the snake and placed it in the bin.
Selser explained snakes are less active during daylight hours and are usually found when somebody comes across one that is napping.
“Snakes generally seek shade during the day to stay cool,” said Selser. “If someone finds a snake in a populated area, we need to get it and take it back into the wild.”
Wildlife found in populated or occupied areas on base are relocated to their environment depending on the type of animal and where it is found.
“About 10 percent of wildlife calls we get are ones found in an office building or house,” added Selser.
After the snake was confined to the bin, Selser put it in the back seat of his four-wheel drive vehicle and headed down a nearby dusty, vacant road.
The snake was safely released in the hills behind the Combat Center Range Residue Processing Center.
Brian Henen, NREA ecologist, said the safety of monitoring and protecting wildlife goes hand-in-hand with training missions.
“The Marines are here to train, and we support that,” said Henen. “Our safety precautions include issues we are trying to address with the prospect that wildlife may cause risks to those training. We are here to support the mission and protect the environment.”
To report wildlife concerns or environmental hazards, call NREA at (760) 830-7396.