Monday, June 10, 2019

FIF Funds Important Health Investigations for Island Foxes

Why are these biologists smiling? Because you are helping island foxes.

Mike Watling (FIF) presents funds to Lara Brenner (CIC) and Laura Shaskey (CINP)

At the annual meeting of the Island Fox Conservation Working Group, Mike Watling, a member of the Friends of the Island Fox Advisory Committee, presented FIF donations to support important investigations into the health of island foxes.

$3,000 to the Fox Program at Catalina Island Conservancy
tick attached to fox lower eyelid
This funding will test a second year of tick samples to determine the threat to island foxes from Lyme disease introduced to several islands in 2018. More on tick-borne disease testing. 

It also represents support from a Fresno Chaffee Zoo Wildlife Conservation grant that will analyze blood samples from island foxes on Catalina for signs of introduced disease. Once again a stow-away raccoon was recently stopped before hopping from a private boat to Catalina Island. Introduction of new diseases via pets and transported wildlife continue to be a problem for all islands, but especially Catalina. In 2018, blood samples revealed for the first time that a small number of Catalina Island foxes were exposed to a form of canine herpes virus. This important testing also detected exposure to a common dog illness, Coronavirus. 30% of the tested island foxes had been exposed to Coronavirus. Fortunately, no island foxes are known to have died from this disease.


$2,000 to the Fox Program at Channel Islands National Park
Intestinal parasites are causing early deaths among island foxes on San Miguel Island. This funding is part of a multi-pronged investigation to understand why and how new parasites are plaguing foxes on this island and why well-known parasites are causing greater impacts on San Miguel Island foxes. (see other ways FIF is helping this investigation)  

When you donate to FIF 
your donations go right to work helping island foxes.
  


Friday, May 24, 2019

You Can Help Island Foxes with Radio Collars


These island fox radio collars have gone to the shop to be refurbished. They have been chewed on, rubbed on rocks, and used as teething bars by island fox pups. But, with your help these collars can be repaired and used to help island foxes, again.

Radio-tracking collars protect whole islands of island foxes.

Radio-tracking collars can also be used for specific situations:

Which foxes wear radio-tracking collars?
 
Soon the radio collars above will be renewed and ready for the field. Before they can start making a difference, Friends of the Island Fox needs to pay for them. 

Refurbishing these 20 radio collars costs over $4,000

Your donation can help put these radio collars back on a wild island fox. 

Please DONATE TODAY 
to help monitor island foxes all year long.

Friday, May 10, 2019

This Island Fox Pup Needs You!

Across the Channel Islands, winter rains have renewed the native island plants and increased food resources for island foxes. 

2019 should be a good year for island fox pups!


Most island foxes are born in April. For the first several months of their lives, they depend on their mother for milk. Both parents will then bring food to the youngsters back at the den. Pups, generally, emerge in June and over the summer their parents teach them how to hunt and find native fruit. Healthy island fox parents have a head start in raising healthy pups.

You can help keep island foxes healthy and safe. 

This year the need for radio-tracking collars is greater than ever.

On each island 50–60 island foxes wear radio-tracking collars. Each year 30% to 50% of the collars need to be replaced or refurbished.

 

In 2019, Friends of the Island Fox is trying to fund:
island fox is vaccinated during health check
These radio collars will be assigned to island foxes this summer and fall during annual counting and health checks. A radio-tracking collar monitors an island fox's movements and signals to biologists when an island fox has died. Radio-tracking collars provide the first alert that disease, parasites, or unexpected predators have killed an island fox.

The sooner biologists can respond to a new threat, the more island foxes can be protected.

Friends of the Island Fox is also helping to fund important investigations into new health threats facing island foxes:
photo courtesy of Inge Rose
Foxes need your help with science-based solutions.
  • $25 tests a tick sample for 5 diseases
  • $50 checks two blood samples
  • $100 analyzes diet from 10 whisker samples
  • $220 refurbishes a used radio collar
  • $350 funds a new radio collar
Island foxes need all of us to help assure the pups of 2019 grow up in a healthy island fox community.

Please DONATE today

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Fox Foto Friday - Urocyon littoralis

The island fox's scientific name is Urocyon littoralis which means "tailed dog of the seashore." 


Though the fox's tail isn't all that visible, this photo gives a true sense of the fox in it's seashore habitat. (More on each island habitat.) This image was taken by an automated wildlife camera on Santa Rosa Island during the early days of island fox recovery. Feeding stations were set-up for foxes with supplemental food until they eased back into finding their own natural diet.

island foxes in captive breeding 2000-2008
After the Santa Rosa Island fox population declined from approximately 1,800 animals to only 15 surviving individuals, their future was questionable. Island foxes born at a captive breeding facility on the island were gradually released into the wild from 2003–2008. Why did island foxes become endangered?

Today island foxes on Santa Rosa Island have recovered to pre-crisis numbers and Friends of the Island Fox supports island fox health investigations, research, and radio-tracking collars used to monitor the population. In 2019 wildlife cameras are being used in the field again to investigate relationships between island foxes and islands spotted skunks.


Monday, April 15, 2019

Friends of the Island Fox Research Grant 2019

Friends of the Island Fox is currently accepting applications for the 2019 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 2019, 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 12, 2019. Recipients will be notified September 9, 2019.

  • What is the typical size of island fox territory? 
  • How has the genetic bottleneck of 2000 impacted genetic diversity of island foxes on Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands? 
  • What are the greatest disease threats to long-term island fox survival? 
  • What is the relationship between island foxes and island spotted skunks?
  • What is the best scientific method to determine island fox age? 
The more we know about island foxes, the safer their future will be.

Previous FIF Research Grant Recipients
2018 - "The Channel Island Food Web–A Decade of Dietary Resource Use in Channel Island Fox: Implications for Reproduction, Recruitment, and Resilience in a Changing Climate." - Juliann Schamel, 2019 Update

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

Friday, April 05, 2019

Fox Foto Friday - Foxes and Spotted Skunks

How can we enter the world of the island fox and the other animals that live on the Channel Islands without disturbing their natural behavior? One way is with strategically placed movement-activated cameras.


Researchers found an area with evidence of island fox activity. Evidence like tracks and scat. They positioned the special camera and left it to document the animals that walked past. Not only was an island fox using this area of Santa Rosa Island, so were the two spotted skunks, pictured below. Both were using the area at night.


Notice that the dates on the two images are months apart. Still, images like these are helping to provide information to better understand the interactions between species and the species themselves. Island spotted skunks are considered solitary creatures, yet the image captured two together. The biologists titled this image a "rumble." What brought these two skunks together? Territorial dispute? Mating season? There is so much to learn about the lives of island foxes and their neighbors.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Island Fox Whiskers Go to the Lab

Schamel with island fox following the fox's health check.
FIF Research Grant recipient Juliann Schamel has been collecting island fox whiskers to study the diet of island foxes through stable isotope analysis. Her research project is in conjunction with Dr. Seth Newsome and the Center for Stable Isotopes at the University of New Mexico.

Juliann says "Once I learned how stable isotope ecology works and what we could learn about island fox ecology from this method...I was hooked. The invisible chemical world can reveal fascinating connections within food webs and beyond." More on stable isotopes

"This year, with the support of Friends of the Island Fox and [another conservation fund], we are able to investigate a variety of conservation-geared questions about island fox diet on San Miguel and Santa Rosa Islands. We are looking into how diet differs among habitats on the islands, among demographic groups, and between island fox and island skunk. We are also assessing if and how fox diet has changed over time (2010–present) in response to things like density changes in the fox population and rainfall (drought conditions). This last question may have important implications for the ecology of the acanthocephalan worm, a novel parasite that appeared in the San Miguel Island fox in 2012 (at the beginning of the drought) and has spread through the fox population."

The spiny-headed worm, a species of Acanthocephala, has been implicated in the low population numbers on San Miguel in recent years. Parasite threatening San Miguel Island Fox.

"By using whisker samples that are linked to a known individual with a known history within the island fox monitoring program," Schamel says, "we are able to track the diet of individuals over time to see if and how their diet may have fluctuated during the drought or as they moved to a new habitat."

A number of whisker specimens were collected this winter, including in the beach/dune habitat on Miguel and Rosa where island foxes are not typically counted. This will provide data on dietary resources in the marine adjacent habitat that has not been collected before. Schamel says "I am very excited to run these samples!"


Collected whisker samples are sorted, inventoried, and cataloged. Once they are cleaned, rinsed, and dried, each individual whisker is placed in vial.


Newsome and his lab manager at UNM use a razor and tweezers to divide each whisker into sub-samples: 0.2mg (weighed precisely with a micro-scale).

Schamel explains these sub-samples are fed into "the mass spectrometer, which consumes the samples and spits out data on carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios." The ratios are compared to a library of food resources and their known isotope ratios. "The FIF funding is actually paying the mass spectrometer for its time."

Schamel in the field on Santa Rosa Island.
So far ~100 island fox samples from Santa Rosa have been analyzed from a variety of habitats. In addition ~200 island fox whisker samples from San Miguel have been analyzed from 2010–2012, before the drought. Schamel will be at UNM this spring working on samples from 2014–2016. "There are many samples from the same individuals across this time frame, which will be exciting to see!"

Juliann Schamel hopes to present preliminary data at the 2019 Island Fox Conservation Working Group Meeting in May. 

Research like Juliann Schamel's is vital to understanding island fox health and long-term survival.  This research is only possible with donations from people like you.

Applications for the 2019 Friends of the Island Fox Research Grant will be available on islandfox.org on April 15, 2019.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Fox Foto Friday - Island Foxes in the Wild

an island fox during March on Santa Cruz
It's hard for people to believe that you can easily see an island fox in the wild on Santa Cruz Island. This island fox was walking across the dirt road near the visitor center. It was happy to give us time to take its photo.

The unique relationship between island foxes and people began around 9,000 years ago. The Chumash and other native peoples living on the islands regarded the island fox as an important neighbor. They did not hunt the island fox or confine it as a pet.

People are surprised when they view wild island foxes going about their daily lives with little regard for the human visitors. Maintaining this relationship means respecting the island fox and its right to live safe from threat or interference on its island home.

When Visiting Island Foxes
More on Santa Cruz Island 

Friday, March 08, 2019

Island Journal - A Visit to San Miguel Island

A visit to San Miguel Island is a rare opportunity. Island foxes are few and the land is windswept. Experience a firsthand trip to this remote Channel Island.
 


Island Journal - San Miguel Island 

San Miguel Island lies at the top of the Southern California Bight, 26 miles from Point Conception. The western most of the Channel Islands, San Miguel receives the full force of the cold California current sweeping past its shores.

Recently, I went on a rarely offered day trip to San Miguel to observe firsthand how the island is recovering from years of ranching and to get a feeling of what island life must endure to survive there. 

After a night of light rain and distant thunder, the morning was overcast, but dry. On the boat trip out, the winds were light as was the swell.  The crossing was direct to San Miguel, approximately a 3-hour trip. About an hour out of Ventura, we spotted the blow of a Humpback whale.  The Islander Packers' boat took time to observe the mighty cetacean feeding in the channel.  A few minutes later, we observed 2 more blows further out.

Santa Cruz Island and Santa Rosa Island slowly passed by on our port side. Eventually, San Miguel came into view. 
 
There is no pier on San Miguel which means we landed by skiff. It's common to have large breakers at the beach on Miguel, which can easily swamp a skiff. Fortunately, the seas remained uncharacteristically calm. We arrived on schedule at 11:15 with 110 people on-board and 2 skiffs. Each skiff  holds 6 passengers. It took approximately 30 minutes to get everyone ashore. Once on the island we had  the mandatory island briefing by the National Park Service (NPS) naturalist.

San Miguel island is owned by the US Navy and managed by the NPS.  During WWII and through to the 1970s, San Miguel was used as a Navy bombing range. To protect visitors from any hazards that might still exist (the Navy did a complete survey in 2016 and found no unexploded ordnance), and to protect the natural resources, visitors must hike in escorted groups. However, you can freely explore the mile-long beach at Cuyler Harbor and hike up to the nearby ranger station and campground. 

coreopsis
To access the island interior, we hiked from the beach up the steep Nidever Canyon for approximately a half mile, gaining 600 feet in the process. The canyon is a great example of how the island is recovering. There is an incredible display of native vegetation; very healthy coastal sagebrush and coastal bluff scrub plant communities with coreopsis, buckwheat, and dudleya. Once on top, we were afforded terrific views of Cuyler Harbor. 

Our instructions were to be back on the beach by 2:30 to begin the skiffing process back to the boat for a 3:30 departure back to Ventura, which didn’t leave much time for exploring. I decided to check out the Cabrillo Monument and wander near the ranger station.

At the ranger station, I ran into one of the fox biologists that I know, so wandering became gabbing about fox whiskers and how ice plant travels the digestive system of the fox much like celery travels ours. Perhaps TMI, but hey...that’s what we talk about and that’s one way information gets passed on.

Talking scat passes the time quickly and I had to head back to the beach. On the beach, a juvenile elephant seal was thermoregulating. They're one of the pinniped species which call San Miguel Island home.


The route back to Ventura Harbor took us along the north side of Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Islands with a stop in Painted Cave, one of the largest sea caves in the world. The winds remained light and sea was like glass.


We were treated to numerous pods of common dolphins, numbering in the thousands, as well as two minke whales, the smallest of the great whales.


We also spotted the same humpback whale, very close to where we spotted it in the morning. (Humpbacks can be identified by the markings on their tail flukes). The Santa Barbara channel did not disappoint! 

No fox sightings to report, but I did see the tell-tale signs of their presence, chiefly scat, littered about in typical fox fashion. 

The day to San Miguel didn’t become the island exploration I first believed it would, but instead became a time to develop a deeper appreciation for the whole ecosystem that encompasses the Channel Islands. An ecosystem where the tiniest zooplankton feeds the mightiest whales. An ecosystem where man’s impact can have a profound negative impact or bring a species back from the brink of extinction. - Mike Watling, FIF Advisory Board

Friday, March 01, 2019

Fox Foto Friday - Spot An Island Fox?

Island foxes are rare creatures, yet sometimes they show up in unexpected places!

Take a second look, this island fox is on the calf of a devoted island fox supporter. It even has accurate island fox tracks. Tracking An Island Fox

We love art with island foxes. Check out:

island fox sculpture and carving 
Island Fox and the Art of an Ecosystem - graphite
student art project - felt
student collage and conservation projects

How will you show your support for island foxes?