MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
During the fall and winter months, many animals that are not hibernating face freezing weather, but for some, another challenge is lack of food.
Without food, the animals of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune would slowly whittle away. However, the MCB Camp Lejeune Environmental Management Division personnel are working hard to ensure this does not happen.
“We have approximately 250 acres of small, managed clearings scattered throughout the base. They range in size from half an acre to more than five acres,” said Marty Korenek, a wildlife biologist with Land and Wildlife Resources Section, Environmental Management Division. “Food plots have long been used by wildlife managers as a means to supplement the diets of wildlife during times of stress or during periods of the year when nutritional natural forage was deficient or lacking. They are also used to concentrate wildlife species such as white-tailed deer or turkeys for hunting or viewing.”
After the Labor Day weekend, Conservation Branch (wildlife and forestry) personnel were hard at work tilling the soil to prepare the seedbed to make way for the different types of seed they were going to plant.
Once an area has been tilled, a seeder, called a drill, will roll through and plant the seeds. From there, nature takes its course and in as little as one week, their labor will pay off with new growth becoming visible. Wildlife food plots are planted each fall with cool season plant species including, oats, wheat and several clover species. Soil amendments like fertilizer and lime are also spread in the food plots.
Animals are not the only ones that benefit from food plots, hunters can take advantage of the many plots scattered throughout MCB Camp Lejeune.
“All the food plots are within designated hunting areas,” said Korenek.
While hunters can use these areas for their advantage, leaving the food plots unharmed is not only beneficial for the animals, but the next hunter who comes along as well. Some people, however, take advantage of an open field and can devastate the plots.
“We do have vandals, for a lack of a better word who come in on their trucks, while some are unintentional and only use the edge to turn their vehicles, others come with malicious intent,” said Korenek. Food plots are expensive to develop and maintain. A significant portion of the annual budget for wildlife food plots is generated by hunters through the sale of base hunting permits. We make quite an investment in materials like signs, equipment, seed, fertilizer fuel, and labor and take a lot of pride in our work. It’s a real disappointment to discover a food plot that has been tore up. It’s senseless.”
Even with signs stating that the area is a food plot and no vehicles are allowed, this has not stopped everyone from hurting a temporary food plot that the Environmental Management Division has put so much work into.
Even with damages, food plots are a necessity for the base and will continue to flourish during harsh seasons and provide the animals with an alternative food option when there is nothing left.