In 1973, plains bison were introduced onto Camp Pendleton as a gift from the San Diego Zoo. From 1973-1979, 14 total bison were presented to the base. The bison herd was last surveyed in 2015, and now consist of approximately 90 individuals. It along with another herd on Santa Catalina Island are the only two wild conservation herds of bison in California.
The base has a robust bison herd management plan that was written in 2015, it is included in 2018's Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan and is around 15 pages in length.
Bison can weigh up to 2,000 pounds, run up to 35 miles per hour and are extremely agile. Use caution should if you encounter a bison aboard Camp Pendleton and stay at least 150 feet away.
On occasion, bison are injured on base. If you come across an injured bison, give it space and stay at least 150 feet away. If a bison turns sideways and shakes it's head, that is bison body language for "Stay Away!"
Although the base conducts some animal management activities to ensure the health of the ecosystem and specific populations, as long as animals are not a threat to the public, the ecosystem, or the Marine Corps' ability to train they are mostly left alone to live and die naturally.
We understand that some people in the community may find this policy insensitive or cruel, but our priority here at Camp Pendleton is to provide safe training areas to the Marine Corps in a way that complies with federal, state, and local environmental regulations. Excessive management or interference with the animals on the base does not support this objective.