Can you find the fox in the tree?
Look high on the right-hand side.
Food can be hard to find if you are an island fox on the California Channel Islands. To reach a greater variety of foods, island foxes are excellent climbers. Their front feet are bigger than their back feet. Being able to climb allows the fox to reach birds and their eggs, but it also lets them eat fruit high in trees.
Here are two kinds of native fruit, eaten by island foxes in the fall, Catalina cherry and prickly pear.
The Catalina cherry looks similar to a cherry we might eat, but the fruit is mostly a big seed. Birds and insects also eat the fruit, nectar and pollen from this important native plant.
But the seed is so big, it takes an animal at least the size of an island fox to swallow the cherry pit and move it to another location.
Prickly pear fruit is large and juicy with many small seeds.
Birds and foxes enjoy eating these fruit as well. The biologists on Catalina Island tell us that when the prickly pear are ripe, they see foxes with their faces stained purple.
One way we can tell what an island fox is eating is by looking at its scat or droppings. Look at the seeds in this scat and the chunks of thick plant skin. Which fruit was this island fox eating, Catalina cherry or prickly pear?
This fox was eating prickly pear. See other foods eaten by island foxes
Because the island fox swallows the seeds whole and redeposits the seeds far away from the parent plant in its scat, the fox is very important to the native plants on the Channel Islands. The island fox helps plants reseed themselves. This is especially important after events like the fire that burned a large area on Catalina Island this spring.
Wild fire and fires accidentally set by people are a threat to island foxes. It can be hard for them to escape. See Catalina Fire Survivor.
But the effect of the fire lasts longer than the flames. Many of the plants that provide food and shelter for the island fox were burned. The good thing is, the island fox will help these plants to grow again by scattering the plants' seeds in its scat.