Friday, May 25, 2018

FIF Research Grant

Friends of the Island Fox is happy to announce 
the FIF Research Grant


The mission of Friends of the Island Fox (FIF) is to bring together conservation professionals and concerned private citizens to create public awareness about the island fox and to raise funds to support education, research and conservation measures to ensure the island fox's survival and protect its island home.

In 2018, Friends of the Island Fox is making $5,000 available in grant funding to researchers working on projects that align with our mission.

Applications will be accepted through July 15, 2018 and recipients will be notified September 1, 2018.


From diet fluctuation and territory use, to disease and longevity, there is much we still need to know about island foxes.

Your donations to Friends of the Island Fox
help make this research grant possible

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Recycling Island Fox Radio Collars


What can you do with a radio-tracking collar that looks like this?

Recycle it!

Across the Channel Islands, a select number of island foxes wear radio-tracking collars. See more about sentinel foxes. But radio collars have a limited lifespan. Their batteries last up to 36 months, then they need to be replaced. Refitting batteries, however, isn't like put new batteries in a flashlight. The waterproof and fox-proof casing has to be removed and refurbished in a workshop.

Friends of the Island Fox is happy to announce that our February fundraiser more than met our goal to fund the recycling of radio collars for Channel Islands National Park. 

Thanks to your donations 
FIF is refurbishing all 20 of the radio collars 
that CINP planned to recycle in 2018


"The collars will get new antennas, new casings, new batteries, new bands, and/or any other new parts that may be necessary," says Laura Shaskey, Wildlife Biologist at Channel Islands National Park. "They will be completely rebuilt, however intact components will be re-used. As you can see the previously used collars are in very poor shape, chewed up, and are often missing antenna."

courtesy of K. Schafer
Another important benefit of recycling radio collars is the reusing of established bandwidths of radio frequency. In our high-tech wireless world, more and more radio frequencies are being gobbled up for human devices. Fewer radio frequencies are available for wildlife tracking equipment. Recycling collars and reusing pre-established radio-collar frequencies is a smart use of physical and audio resources.


As Shaskey points out, "Refurbishing collars is an efficient cost-effective method to replace collars, so they are as good as new for monitoring another fox for the next three years."


Because recycling a radio collar costs less, FIF was also able to purchase 5 new radio collars for use in Channel Islands National Park.



25 radio tracking collars that will be placed on island foxes 
this season because of your donations!

"Thanks again for all your support with collar purchases this year! It is a great help!" - Laura Shaskey

Friday, May 04, 2018

Who Is On San Miguel Island?


It's spring on San Miguel Island and wildlife technicians are counting one of the species important to island foxes. Can you guess which one?

Follow along with the Channel Island National Park team as they document 1 second a day on San Miguel Island.



Find out more about the island fox and this other island animal

Discover new observations of this animal interacting with bald eagles 

A huge thank you to the wildlife technicians at Channel Islands National Park for sending FIF this glimpse into their days on San Miguel. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Island Foxes and Earth Day Events 2018


Earth Day is a great time to celebrate the success of island fox conservation and recommit to helping island foxes.

You can connect with Friends of the Island Fox at two Earth Day events.

Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival
April 21 & 22, 2018
Saturday 11 AM - 8 PM & Sunday 11 AM - 6 PM

Friends of the Island Fox and Channel Islands Restoration will be at Alameda Park in Santa Barbara to celebrate at the Earth Day Festival (maps & info)

Join in a science investigation activity to discover what the island foxes have been eating. 

Learn about the connection between island foxes and native plants. 

FIF will be showcasing our NEW Friends of the Island Fox t-shirts! All sales help island fox conservation.

 
Fresno Chaffee Zoo Party for the Planet 2018
Friday April 20
9 AM - 1 PM

Get "hands-on" with the Health Check Fox
Fresno Chaffee Zoo has long been a supporter of Friends of the Island Fox and island fox recovery. Zoo volunteers will host FIF's Health Check Fox. 

This unique education tool lets you try your hand at a health check for an island fox. You can check the teeth, examine the ear with an otoscope, check the body for injuries, and take blood samples, just like the biologists do in the field.

FIF is celebrating the support of the Fresno community for island fox conservation. Fresno Chaffee Zoo's five year grant of $10,000 from 2013-2018 funded:

Join in the celebration. More details on the Party for the Planet

Support Fresno Chaffee Zoo's conservation efforts around the world and here in California for the island fox.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Fox Foto Friday - An Island Fox Den

courtesy of Will Campbell
Across the Channel Islands, island fox pairs are preparing for parenthood. They've found a protected spot for a den. The den may be between rocks, under tree roots or bushes, or an abandoned burrow dug by another animal. It just needs to be protected and out of the weather. This den is where their pups will be born.

Island fox pups are typically born in April. Most litters have 2-3 pups. The rain this year has been below average so litter size may tend to be smaller. 

Less rain = fewer resources. 
Fewer resources = fewer island fox pups.

Drought impacts on island foxes.

How big is an island fox pup?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

More Connections Between Bald Eagles and Island Foxes

courtesy of P. Sharpe; bald eagle catching fish off the islands
The recovery of bald eagles on the California Channel Islands has played an important role in island fox recovery. Bald eagles prey on fish and marine birds. They are not mammal predators and do not actively hunt island foxes. Because bald eagles nest on the Channel Islands, they chase away migrating golden eagles and do not allow them to colonize the islands.

With 50-60 bald eagles now living across the eight Channel Islands, no island foxes are known to have been killed by golden eagles for several years. Bald eagles definitely make a difference in the ecosystem for island foxes. But what benefit do island foxes provide bald eagles?  

Across the Channel Islands bald eagles are hatching out their 2018 chicks. Channel Island National Park reported that there are 13 active bald eagle nests across the islands this year and at least 22 known eggs.  

courtesy P. Sharpe
Three eaglets hatched in the Sauces Canyon nest last week on Santa Cruz Island. You can watch them 24 hrs a day via a webcam https://explore.org/livecams/bald-eagles/channel-islands-national-park-sauces-bald-eagle

Tonight, close observers saw some unexpected visitors to the bald eagle nest. Along with fish, the parent bald eagles have brought scavenged seal placenta back to the nest to feed their chicks. But with the darkness, something else stole up into the nest to eat the placenta bits. Circled in green, do you see the surprise scavengers? island deer mice.


captured image from the webcam 3/20/18
Who would have thought that hungry deer mice would come up into the bald eagle nest to eat meaty placenta. The eagle does not have night vision, it is a daytime hunter. It could hear the munching mice and would occasionally drive them off. Island deer mice are known to eat songbird eggs, and possibly chicks, when given the opportunity, (like when island fox populations were very low). The eaglets are small and without their parent's protection, would they be prey for the gang of deer mice? At one point six deer mice were visible.

Island foxes play an important role in controlling island deer mouse populations. 

Other bald eagle parents on the islands are sleeping soundly tonight, but the bald eagle with the messy nest is wide awake in the rain. It has two jobs tonight: keeping three eaglets warm and dry, and keeping the deer mice at bay. It will be a long night for this bald eagle, it needs an island fox.

Island foxes sometimes clean leftover food out of bald eagle nests. Island fox in a bald eagle nest.

New discovery of house mice attacking albatross chicks and nesting adults. 

Friday, March 09, 2018

Sex and the Single Island Fox

When it comes to reproduction, island foxes are not your typical canine. 

A female dog will go into heat and become reproductively receptive even if there is no male dog nearby. Dogs have spontaneous ovulation, they have a determined reproductive cycle which includes a spike of hormone to release the ovum or egg into the female's reproductive tract. Not so with island foxes. 

Captive breeding occurred from 2000 - 2008
During the period of captive breeding to increase island fox populations, it was discovered that female island foxes, without access to a male partner, did not show the elevated hormone patterns signaling they had ovulated. These single females did not go into heat.

A similar reproductive behavior occurs in members of suborder Feliformia, or the cat branch of carnivores (cats, otters, wolverines, ferrets, etc.), and in bears. These species have induced ovulation–some physical or hormonal stimulus from the male is required to stimulate or initiate ovulation.

To date island foxes are the only canine observed to have this reproductive trait. However, research on this facet of reproduction is minimal. It is unknown if gray foxes, the ancestor of island foxes, are induced ovulators. 

Gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) are an ancient species. Some sources consider them the most basal or closest to the root of the canine family tree. In Decline and Recovery of the Island Fox the authors suggest induced ovulation may be a primitive trait shared between these ancient canines and other carnivores, like cats and bears. Spontaneous ovulation may have evolved later in the branches of the canine family tree that gave rise to red foxes and wolves. Compare gray fox and island fox.

The single female island fox? 

Well, she just doesn't waste her reproductive energy if there is no eligible mate at hand. 

What other animals are known to have induced ovulation? rabbits and camels

Friday, March 02, 2018

Fox Foto Friday - Island Foxes in Art

To know island foxes is to love them. This charming wedding cake duo topped the nuptial cake for one of our favorite island fox biologists. 


From cakes to wood carvings, ...


...island foxes are gradually making their way into culture and consciousness.

If you think about it, island foxes are a pretty good totem for marital happiness: they are more monogamous than humans and form very strong pair bonds. Males and females are devoted to family. More about island fox behavior.

Pair during captive breeding period

More island foxes in Art:
The Art of an Ecosystem - interactive art on the island fox story
Student Art & Conservation Project