A U.S. Navy firing range has become the new home for one North America’s rarest birds.
The San Clemente Island loggerhead shrike was believed to be on the brink of extinction with just seven breeding pairs in the 1990s until their numbers started to rise to 140 thanks to a federal program that protects endangered species on military bases, the Associated Press reports.
"The shrike seems to be unaffected by the loud noises," Melissa Booker, a Navy biologist, told the Daily Telegraph about the endangered bird that lives in a firing range known as the “boom box.”
The Navy base located off the Southern California coast, is the military’s only ship-to-shore bombardment range where snipers and other military personnel practice their trades before heading to war.
"They're doing some good things for endangered species, which is great, but there are activities that are really damaging to the environment at the same time," Noah Greenwald, of the Center for Biological Diversity, said.
The $3 million conservation project on San Clemente Island was established for this reason.
"If we were to abuse the island, we would lose it," Cmdr. Christopher Kirby, the officer in charge of San Clemente, said about the military’s efforts to protect endangered species on the island. Snipers are told to void the nests of endangered birds and nests of the threatened western snowy plovers have been moved to avoid tanks. Since conservation efforts were put into place, the population of the San Clemente Island foxes grew from a few hundred to more than 1,100 over the past decade.
San Clemente Island isn’t the only military base to be ramping up its recovery efforts. According to the Pentagon, $73 million was spent last year to protect more than 400 threatened species on more than 28 million acres.
"I've seen entire convoys with dozens of soldiers come to a screeching halt because a desert tortoise was crossing the road," Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright told AP "They've come a long way and do deserve credit.”