Thursday, August 31, 2023

Island Foxes Are Getting New Radio Collars


Six new radio collars funded by Friends of the Island Fox will arrive on Catalina Island next week!

Across the Channel Islands, island foxes are receiving annual health checks and new radio-tracking collars.


Watch the video below of M173. He is a four-year-old male on Santa Rosa Island and his radio collar was replaced last week during his health check.

He is not tranquilized. The green hood covers his eyes and keeps his mouth closed. This keeps him calm and enables biologists to quickly complete a health check, vaccinate the fox against canine distemper and rabies, and for some island foxes, deploy a new or refurbished radio collar.

This radio collar will send signals to biologists for the next 2–3 years. The signal will help locate M173 and the type of signal informs the biologist if he is moving around normally or if something might have happened to him. In the case of a mortality signal, biologists can follow the signal to find the island fox's body and determine what happened. If there is a threat to other island foxes, action can be taken quickly.

For the 2023 health check season Friends of the Island Fox has supplied:

Radio collars offer the best way to monitor island fox survival 

in the wild. 

Your donations make it all possible.

Friday, August 04, 2023

FIF Research Grant Application Deadline Approaching


Are island spotted skunks genetically different enough from mainland spotted skunks to warrant species status? FIF 2022 Research Grant recipient Julia Owen is probing the island spotted skunk genome.


Are island foxes crossing into the territory of other island foxes to access beach foods on Santa Rosa Island? FIF 2021 Research Grant recipient Katie Elder and recipient Juliann Schamel continue to investigate island fox territory size and diet. 

Are you investigating island foxes, prey species, Channel Island ecosystem dynamics, public education and attitudes toward island fox conservation, or any topic relating to island fox survival and a healthy island ecosystem?

Apply for FIF's 2023 Island Fox Research Grant

Download Application

Grants will be considered for up to $7,000

Application Deadline August 28 

Friday, July 21, 2023

Radio Collars and Vaccines Arrive for Island Foxes

Island fox populations are stable across the Channel Islands, but recovery is only as sustainable as our participation in protecting them from introduced threats.

Radio Monitoring

Radio-tracking collars remain the best technology for monitoring island fox survival. These collars allow biologists to determine from a distance that an island fox is alive and active in its habitat. If something happens to a fox and it stops moving for 6 hrs, the radio collar signal changes, alerting biologists that something has happened to that individual island fox. Quick response to the death of a collared fox allows new diseases or other threats to be discovered early–protecting the rest of the uncollared population. 

New and refurbished radio collars have just arrived.

  • 5 new and 15 refurbished radio collars for Santa Cruz Island
  • 24 refurbished radio collars for Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands

44 radio collars will be fitted on island foxes over the next few months. They were funded through:


Vaccinations Against Distemper and Rabies

Despite vaccine price increases, you helped FIF raise the $13,571 needed to vaccinate 650 island foxes in 2023.

Vaccine for rabies and canine distemper has gone out to Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Catalina Islands. On the three northern islands, 100 foxes will be vaccinated during health checks, while 350 island foxes will be vaccinated on Catalina. Why are more foxes vaccinated on Catalina?

It takes a community to vaccinate island foxes:

Every donation makes a difference for island fox survival.


Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Island Fox Status Update 2023

Island fox populations are healthy, but the differences between each island subspecies are becoming more apparent. 


The following is the update from across the Channel Islands as compiled from notes by Friends of the Island Fox at the 25th Annual Island Fox Working Group Meeting held May 18, 2023 at the Santa Barbara Zoo (hybrid meeting).

Reported population numbers are official estimates from each land manager as calculated during the 2022 counting period. (How are island foxes counted)

Overview: Island foxes appeared healthy across the islands, but while some populations increased toward near record highs, others declined. Increasingly, island fox populations are revealing different health risks, climate impacts, and island specific challenges.

Microbiome research. Each island ecosystem effects the natural bacteria of its island fox population. Three islands have ear mites: Nicolas, Clemente, and Catalina. Both Clemente and Catalina Island foxes have reduced bacterial biodiversity, but only Catalina Island foxes develop chronic inflammation in conjunction with out of balance bacteria and develop cancer if ear mites are not treated. More about microbiome research

Island fox life span may vary by island. The age of many island foxes is documented because most individuals are microchipped. In 2022, two island foxes on San Miguel Island died naturally of old age at 11 and 12 years old. At the same time, the oldest island fox captured on San Nicolas Island was 9. Santa Rosa currently has the greatest density of island foxes and collared foxes that died during the year were 2–7 years old. Island fox life span may be influenced by multiple variables. Determining age from tooth cementum

Island size influences fox population limits. Smaller islands, like San Miguel and San Nicolas can only support 300–450 island foxes. When drought, catastrophic heatwaves, or other survival challenges occur, these smaller populations are more vulnerable to loss. 

The leading threats to island foxes in 2023 are:

  • biosecurity: the threat of introduced viruses, disease, and/or non-native animals
  • reduced funding for monitoring
  • climate change: increasing regional temperatures and decreasing annual rainfall, which reduce resources, increase wildfire, and promote greater parasite numbers


Greatest Concern: While other island fox populations remained stable or even increased, San Clemente Island foxes declined by an estimated 30%, without a known cause. Individual island foxes on San Clemente appear healthy and pups were documented in numbers similar to other islands. This decline is being investigated; it's a strong reminder that these island populations are vulnerable and can be effected quickly by a negative force. 

Disease threats remain high for all island foxes. As populations reach carrying capacity and island foxes live closer together, it becomes easier for viruses to pass from fox-to-fox. Friends of the Island Fox is responding to this increased concern by supporting canine distemper and rabies vaccinations across four islands in 2023.

You can help protect island foxes by being a biosecurity guardian; watch the video


Smaller Islands

The two smallest islands San Miguel and San Nicolas remain stable, but you can see in the graph above that the trend was completely different on San Clemente Island.

San Miguel Island (lime green line) - This population continues to increase from a drought impact low in 2018. In 2022, an individual island fox on San Miguel had an 82% chance of surviving the year, the highest survival rate reported across the islands for the year. 

San Nicolas Island (pink line) - Easing drought also benefited San Nicolas Island foxes and their individual health improved. However, island foxes have begun congregating in areas where people offer food. As a result Adenovirus (dog flu) and Parvovirus are spreading and increasing across the island; fortunately, no fatalities have been attributed to the diseases. Being hit by a car remains the greatest threat to these island foxes. FIF is working with the Navy on an education program to reduce this threat.

San Clemente Island (blue line) - The population dropped lower than it has been since 2008. Car strike is especially frequent on this island–42 fatalities in 2022–with the majority being young foxes. This, however, doesn't account for the overall decline. Researchers are evaluating the survival rate for pups and other potential causes.

Larger Islands

The current population sizes of the larger islands have helped provide greater stability and resilience against climate change impacts. All of the island fox populations on the larger islands are at or near documented population highs.

Santa Catalina Island (red line) - Catalina Island foxes benefited from easing drought; their general health improved and viruses in the population declined. Currently, human activity poses the greatest threat. Not only are island foxes hit by cars, they get trapped in man-made structures and are killed by pet dogs. Catalina has the greatest threat of canine distemper or rabies being introduced. FIF funded vaccinations for 350 island foxes on this island and health testing.

Santa Rosa Island (pink line with squares) - This island currently has the greatest known island fox density, with 12.4 foxes per sq km. The calculated rate for an individual to survive the year declined to 75%, but the population remained unchanged. While several collared foxes aged 2–7 died during the year, the cause of death remains unknown because of a lack of staffing in the National Park to recover the bodies for testing. The two GPS radio collar studies of island fox territory supported by Friends of the Island Fox continue. Data should be available later this summer.

Santa Cruz Island (black line) - Santa Cruz Island has the largest island fox population, but increasing competition has edged down the chance of an individual island fox surviving through the year to 55%. Still, island foxes appear healthy. Ten sentinel foxes died during the winter, but their bodies were not recovered for testing due to stormy weather. 

Across the Channel Islands, island foxes are stable and healthy because people like you are investing in their future. Your donations to Friends of the Island Fox fund vaccinations, radio collars for monitoring, health efforts, education, and important research.

Friday, June 09, 2023

Island Fox Ambassadors Making a Difference

Island Fox Ambassadors help island foxes by:

  • educating others about island foxes
  • directly supporting island fox conservation in some way
  • or improving the island fox's habitat

Magic Wands for Foxes

Benjamin and Larissa in Georgia wanted to help island foxes. They handmade these magic wands and sold them. Their hard work and creative idea help fund the refurbishing of a radio collar that will be going on an island fox this summer.

Cans for Vaccinations

Kris in California became passionate about island foxes when her daughter worked as a biologist on the Channel Islands. She watched island foxes being vaccinated against canine distemper virus and rabies and understood how vital this effort is to island fox survival. 

Kris saw aluminum cans and plastic bottles being discarded as trash  and decided to help island foxes. She's created a neighborhood recycling effort and over the past three months has collect $300 worth of recyclables to vaccinate 15 island foxes.

Island Fox Ambassadors have one thing in common: a desire to help island foxes!

Age is not a requirement - Ambassadors range in age from children to foxy ladies

Ambassadors can be individuals, classes, schools, groups, or even a baseball team.

 You can be an Island Fox Amabassador, too. 

Other Island Fox Ambassadors

Friday, June 02, 2023

Supporting Island Fox Health Across the Channel Islands

 Every donation makes a difference!

FIF presents support for island fox disease testing

At the Island Fox Conservation Working Meeting on May 20th, 

FIF not only celebrated 


...your donations went to work!

FIF President Mike Watling presented Makenzie Henk, Wildlife Conservation Manager for the Catalina Island Conservancy with $4,100 to support testing island foxes for virus exposure. Catalina Island foxes face the greatest threat from introduced disease. Blood samples from Catalina Island foxes are tested for five viruses. More about this testing and health checks. Interview with Henk and CIC thanks Friends of the Island Fox.

Friends of the Island Fox also funded $4,540 in canine distemper and rabies vaccine to protect island foxes within Channel Islands National Park on San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and the southern tip of Santa Cruz Island. Canine distemper virus is lethal to island foxes and vaccination protects them for almost a year. 

Island foxes across the Channel Islands will be receiving vaccinations as population counting and health checks take place between June and early December. Vaccine will be going out to other islands soon. 

Your donations will help FIF provide 

nearly $13,000 worth of vaccine in the next few months

Friday, May 12, 2023

What Questions Do You Have For Island Fox Experts?

Next week 

the Island Fox Conservation Working Group 

meets for its 

25th Annual Meeting !

It's a time to celebrate the biologists, land managers, researchers, technicians, veterinarians, ecologists, government agencies, academic institutions, and conservation organizations that all came together to formulate a plan and take action to save island foxes from extinction and shepherd their recovery. 

It is also a time to ask questions of the folks that were on the ground trying to discern why island foxes were disappearing on the northern islands in the late 1990s.

And how was it discovered that canine distemper virus was killing island foxes on Catalina Island in the south?

How were the Catalina Island foxes saved from high levels of cancer?

What do we still need to find out about island foxes to protect them into the future?

Friends of the Island Fox 

is looking for your questions

Thursday May 18, we'll be posing your questions to the people of the Island Fox Working Group and videoing their answers.

Send your questions to

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

FIF Research Grant 2023

Friends of the Island is taking applications through August for the

FIF 2023 Research Grant


From dietary investigation linked with territory use to microbes affecting island fox health, new science is revealing the complex world of island foxes and the Channel Island ecosystem.

This year FIF will be offering up to $7,000 in support toward research projects benefiting greater understanding of island foxes and the Channel Islands.

Last year's grant project is working to reveal the Spotted Skunk Genome and how the island spotted skunk is related to mainland populations.

Island spotted skunk origins may help support evolving information on how island foxes initially arrived on the Channel Islands.

More on current and past FIF Funded Research

FIF grant winners are asked to provide public updates on their work. 

See presentations by Fox Researchers for "Date with a Fox" programs

Recently published island fox science

Important island fox research is funded by DONORS LIKE YOU.

It's Science for Fox Sake! 


Thursday, March 30, 2023

Join FIF on a Trip to Santa Cruz Island

Spring is a great time to visit the Channel Islands!

Friends of the Island Fox is headed to Santa Cruz Island for the day on:

May 20th, 2023

We'll check-in at Ventura Harbor at 8:15 am 

and return around 5 pm.

The $75 (per person) registration includes: boat fare, FIF naturalist guides on the island, and a donation to support vaccinating island foxes against canine distemper virus.

4/14/23 Trip is SOLD OUT

Each trip to the islands is an adventure...


... and we never know for sure what wildlife we might see. Island foxes and island scrub-jays are typically seen where we are headed.

The dock at Scorpion Landing is new and only requires two steps on the boat to access a ramp; no more metal ladder to climb.

Reservations are taken on a first come basis. 

4/14/23 Trip is SOLD OUT

Come enjoy the islands, see island foxes, and help protect their future.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Everything You Wanted to Know About Island Fox Pups

island fox pup, courtesy of I. Rose

Across the Channel Islands, island fox parents are finding hidden-away spots for a den where females can give birth to pups. Most island fox pups are born in April.

How big are island fox pups at birth? Small - about the size and weight of two AA batteries.

What do you call baby island foxes? Pups or kits. At birth their natal fur is a cocoa brown and their ears appear small and rounded. The pup pictured was born at a zoo in 2006–at that time there was a small breeding population in a few zoos. Island fox dens are not disturbed in the wild.

When do pups emerge from the den? Typically in June. When pups come out into the world they have replaced their baby fur with a coat that looks like their parents. Island fox fur

How many pups are in a litter? Typically, 2–3 pups are born in a litter. Play between siblings is an important part of learning to hunt and interact socially. If food resources are abundant, an island fox pair can have up to 5 pups. In years of drought, few pups are born. Drought year, 2021

What sounds do pups make? LISTEN to the sounds of a young island fox pup.

What do they eat?
Like all mammals, island fox pups initially nurse milk from their mother. Gradually, they eat prey brought to them by both of their parents. The parent above is bringing 3 island deer mice back to the den. Both parents teach the pups to hunt and find plant foods. Island fox diet

Are island foxes born knowing how to hunt and find food?
No. All of the island foxes currently in captivity were pups that were separated from their parents and did not learn how to provide for themselves in the wild. Island fox pups need their parents to teach them how to hunt and find food.

Video - Island fox pup reunited with mother