Friday, December 05, 2008

Island Fox on NBC Nightly News

The success of the conservation efforts to save the Channel Island fox made the NBC Nightly News on Monday, December 1, 2008 !

How wonderful to see the faces of our friends at Channel Islands National Park talking about the island fox’s rapid progress toward recovery. National Park Service fox biologist, Tim Coonan is a familiar face on the Friends of the Island Fox website.

SEE Tim Coonan releasing island fox M-67 back into the wild.

LISTEN to an interview with Tim Coonan.

Friends of the Island Fox is proud to have worked with Tim and the dedicated people at Channel Islands National Park. Donations to Friends of the Island Fox have supported this successful conservation effort by funding radio tracking collars and den boxes at the captive breeding facility on Santa Rosa Island.

Yes, island fox populations are increasing, but when the NBC reporter said there are 650 island foxes, he was referring to across the three northern islands, San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz. Prior to the decline in the late 1990s, there were over 1,500 island foxes estimated on Santa Rosa Island alone.

The two populations on San Miguel and Santa Rosa, which crashed down to just 15 individuals on each island, are still highly vulnerable. The current estimates are just over 100 island foxes on each of these two islands.

The island fox on San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina Island is STILL an endangered species.

Monitoring these populations with radio tracking collars is vital to maintaining the continued success of their recovery. Each radio collar costs $250. Funding is still needed to put radio tracking collars on island foxes.

Canine diseases, distemper and rabies, continue to pose a serious threat to these small isolated populations. Annual health checks and vaccinations against these diseases still need to be funded.

You can help to insure that the island fox continues its historical recovery by donating to Friends of the Island Fox and supporting these continuing important conservation efforts.

WATCH the NBC Nightly News report on the island fox.

ADDITIONAL NBC reports on the island fox:

For More Information on the Channel Island fox. Current Island Fox Information.

About the Channel Islands:

San Miguel Island VIDEO
Santa Rosa Island
Santa Cruz Island
San Nicolas Island
Santa Catalina Island

All six islands with island foxes

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Island Fox Origins and the Truth Behind Eagle Diets

Are you looking for information on the origin of island foxes; how they evolved and their biology? Perhaps you’ve heard people question whether golden eagles were actually preying on island foxes. Answer your questions with information from the primary sources.

Friends of the Island Fox is honored to make
information available from top researchers and biologists working with the island fox and the Channel Island ecosystem.

Paul W. Collins, Curator of Vertebrate Zoology at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History recently gave two presentations from his accumulated research at an Island Fox Workshop sponsored by the Santa Barbara Museum, Ty Warner Sea Center, Santa Barbara Zoo and Friends of the Island Fox. Both of these presentations are now available through links from the Friends of the Island Fox Educational Research Library.

  • Origin, Evolution and Biology of the Island Fox - looks at genetic, morphological, and archeological data regarding island fox origins and the basics of island fox biology, size, behavior, reproduction and diet

  • Diet of Bald and Golden Eagles on the Channel Islands - looks at the role eagles played in the decline of island foxes on the Northern Channel Islands and compares the diet of bald and golden eagles on the islands by examining prey remains in nests.

These two slideshow presentations can be found in the Educational Research Library

Under: “Island Fox Fact Sheets & Current Research

Under: “Links to Research Sources

Friends of the Island Fox is endeavoring to create the Internet’s most current library of information regarding island foxes. If you are a researcher or biologist and would like us to link to or host your published work relating to the island fox or the Channel Island ecosystem, please contact the Friends of the Island Fox Webmaster at

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Island Foxes Back in the Wild

Friday November 7, the remaining able-bodied male island fox in captivity at the captive breeding facility on Santa Rosa Island was released into the wild. This happy day marks an important milestone in the recovery of this endangered species.

You can WATCH a moment of history as 6-year-old, M-67 steps out of his transport carrier and into the island scrub of Santa Rosa Island in Channel Islands National Park. LOOK for M-67's radio telemetry collar. The tracking collar was funded by donations to Friends of the Island Fox and will help keep track of this tiny fox as he makes his way in the wild.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Milestone for Endangered Channel Island Fox

The door of the travel kennel opened and M- 67 leapt out. But rather than dash off across the lupine studded hillside, he hesitated and looked around. He seemed to know it was a moment to be savored.

When island fox populations on the northern islands plummeted to the edge of extinction in 1999, Channel Islands National Park and the Nature Conservancy established captive breeding facilities on San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Islands “as insurance against the loss of foxes from golden eagle predation.” But as the Channel Island National Park stated in their press release regarding the historic events of November 2008 - “With fox recovery on the rise, the one remaining captive breeding facility on Santa Rosa Island will close. Captive breeding is responsible for saving the island fox from the brink of extinction on Santa Cruz, San Miguel, and Santa Rosa Islands.”

In the past few weeks, 31 island foxes from the Santa Rosa Island breeding facility have been returned to the wild. Today–November 7, 2008–as Pat Meyer and Friends of the Island Fox, Inc. board members and members of the press looked on, National Park Service biologist Tim Coonan opened the door to freedom for M67. The little 6 year-old male fox was born in the captive breeding facility and over the years had been paired with several females. Now, he sat gazing at the wide open expanse around him.

Eight years ago when the Santa Rosa island fox population teetered on the edge of extinction with just 15 remaining individuals, Tim Coonan would have never believed this day could come so quickly. On this perfect autumn day, his words to M67 were prophetic, “Go on, you can do it.”

After a quick look over his shoulder, the little island fox bounded off through the low bushes. As he disappeared over a small hill, we heard the hardy beep, beep, beep of the signal from his radio tracking collar. This historic little fox has returned to the wild wearing a radio collar funded by donations to Friends of the Island Fox.

On this momentous day, Friends of the Island Fox proudly presented funds to Channel Islands National Park for two additional fox radio collars. To date, with your support, Friends of the Island Fox has helped put radio tracking collars on 22 island foxes on the northern islands and 10 island foxes on Santa Catalina Island. Radio tracking collars are vital to monitoring the continued success of one of America’s rarest mammals.

For more on the historic return of island foxes to the wild:

Coverage by Lance Orozco from KCLU NPR Radio News in Ventura. Link to KCLU Radio

Article by Chuck Graham in the Ventura County Reporter, 11/13/08

NBC Nightly News during the week of 11/10-14/08

We will be posting video and a podcast of M67’s release in the next week.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Island Fox Information

Friends of the Island Fox announces the launch of our
Educational Resources Library

ur goal is to bring the expertise of researchers, land managers and biologists in the field, to the general public. We want you to have access to the most current information available about the island fox and the Channel Island ecosystem.

By clicking on the "Library" button in the navigation bar at the top of the page, you will go directly to our library of resources both written and visual.

Our new list of publications includes:
  • an Island Fox Fact Sheet (written by Catherine Schwemm PhD, co-author of an upcoming book on the island fox)
  • Island Fox Update 2008 (the most current information island-by-island)
  • Summaries of recent research findings on island fox behavior, relationships with eagles, island fox health, management, and the island fox and the Channel Island ecosystem
Dive into the new Library and discover the important news from the scientists:

  • The San Miguel Island fox is making the most successful recovery recorded in a canine species
  • Eagles leave evidence in their nests that proves what they are eating
  • The Santa Catalina Island fox is facing serious health threats
Click on "Library" in the navigation bar at the top of the site.

Friends of the Island Fox is devoted to providing educational resources about the island fox and the Channel Islands ecosystem to the public. Your donations help support this effort and island fox conservation.

To donate click on the Pay Pal button in the upper right panel.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fox Festival at Santa Barbara Zoo

The Santa Barbara Zoo Island Fox Festival

Sunday, October 5, 2008
11:00 AM - 3:00 PM

The Santa Barbara Zoo and Roots 'n Shoots are sponsoring the Island Fox Festival this weekend. It is a great opportunity to learn about the various conservation efforts of Roots 'n Shoots youth groups and to meet a Channel Island fox.

Even though the island fox enclosure is closed for remodeling,
Finnigan, an island fox born at the Zoo last year, will be making appearances at presentations during the day. MORE on Finnigan.

Friends of the Island Fox
will be participating in the festivities during the day. Come by and visit us.

This is a wonderful family event with music, crafts and activities.

For more about the Santa Barbara Zoo and Directions

More about Roots 'n Shoots.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ask About the Island Fox

Friends of the Island Fox offers FREE programs about the endangered island fox and the Channel Island ecosystem to school children from 3rd grade through college. Depending on participant age and group size, programs include interactive program, video of an island fox release, radio-collar tracking demonstration and hands-on materials.

To schedule a classroom visit or speaker, contact us at

As we all go Back to School, here are a few questions we have received from students.

1. How long do island foxes live?

Island foxes typically live eight to ten years in the wild. While they are not considered to be adults until age two, in some cases they do form mate pairs and have their first family before they are a year old. When wild foxes are examined by biologists, the wear and condition of the island fox’s teeth help the biologist determine the animal’s age.

2. Can an island fox hurt a person?

The island fox is a very small member of the dog family. Their average weight is only 5 pounds and they stand just over a foot tall. They do have sharp, pointed teeth for eating insects and hunting mice and birds, but an island fox is more likely to run from people than to threaten them. An island fox will try to protect its home territory from other foxes. Some foxes have scars from territory struggles with other foxes. Island foxes sometimes bark at intruders. See the Video of a barking island fox.

3. Can an island fox handle the snow in the winter?

It rarely snows on the California Channel Islands in the winter. The ocean that surrounds the islands helps to keep the weather mild. However, it can be cold, foggy and very windy on the Channel Islands at times. Being small helps the island fox stay out of the wind and their fur is short and thick to help keep them warm. In the fog, this island fox pup's gray coat helps it blend in against the dry summer plants and the island rocks.

Do you have a question about the California Channel Island fox?

Send your questions to

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Update on a Special Island Fox

May 2007 a wild fire swept over a large area of Santa Catalina Island (Helping Island Foxes In Fire Area). After the fire, a female island fox was found with severe burns on her four paws. Her fur was singed and sooty. Diligent care provided by the Catalina Island Conservancy allowed the little fox to recover and she was released July 11, 2007 wearing a radio collar funded by donations to Friends of the Island Fox.

In November of 2007, “Burnie Boots,” as she has been nicknamed, was captured during island-wide fox health checks and she appeared to be doing well. Her feet had recovered fully. The only sign of her previous injury is that two of her toe pads are fused together. This fusing of the tissue happened during the healing process.

Boots’ radio collar transmits a specific radio frequency that allows biologists to hone in on her location and check on her movements, even if they can not physically see her. As long as the little fox continues to actively move around, her radio collar transmits a constant signal. If something should happen to Boots and she should stop being active, the radio collar would send out a distinctive distress signal.

As July 2008 approached, Boots’ battery-powered collar was in need of replacement. Using the radio collar signal, the Catalina biologists were able to set a trap specifically in the area where Boots was living. They captured her and, as the photo shows, her fur has completely recovered. The biologists replaced Boots' radio collar, checked her health and found a happy surprise. Not only had Boots recovered from last year’s burns, she showed signs of nursing pups. This spring the little fox saved from the fire became a mother. Her pups are helping to increase the Catalina Island fox population.

Burnie Boots’ success story is the result of many people working together to help the endangered island fox. The Catalina Island Conservancy manages the daily needs of this specific subspecies of island fox. Donations raised through Friends of the Island Fox by students in the Fox Ambassador Program and from concerned private individuals provided Boots with both of her radio collars.

Saving this endangered species requires community awareness and involvement. You can make a difference and help save the Channel island fox.

Donations to Friends of the Island Fox are used directly toward island fox conservation efforts and public education. You can donate directly to Friends of the Island Fox through our PayPal button at the top right corner or by check to:

Friends of the Island Fox
3760 Groves Place, Somis CA 93066

(805) 386-0386

Your school, class or youth group can become Island Fox Ambassadors

For questions about school presentations and the Fox Ambassador Program contact us at

Listen to a fox health check in progress.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Experiencing San Nicolas Island

Island Journal - Summer 2008

Visiting California’s San Nicolas Island is a unique opportunity. This remote and wind-swept island is owned by the United States Navy. Friends of the Island Fox President, Pat Meyer, and I were fortunate to receive a special invitation for a short visit.

At first glance, the treeless slopes seem barren, but life here clings low to the ground to survive shifting wind. Delicate verbena flowers rise up from the sandy soil. Giant coreopsis, a species unique to the Channel Islands and the Southern California coast, stand like a forest of gray stick figures. This member of the daisy family grows several feet tall on a woody stem. In spring, the dried trunks come back to life and produce pompoms of lacy green topped with brilliant yellow flowers. (coreopsis photo)

Now, in July, the stems are dormant again, but the coreopsis forest is gradually spreading across 10% of the island. It is a clear sign that native plants are returning.

San Nicolas currently has the largest island fox population and the greatest number of foxes per square kilometer. We came hoping to see wild island foxes and the island didn’t disappoint us.

We were even lucky enough to see a litter of four pups born this spring. They were about 2 months old and bold little explorers. This is dad with one of the pups in the early morning fog.

Gazing across the dunes and scrub, it is hard to imagine there is enough cover to hide a fox, but the San Nicolas island foxes are tiny. The individuals we saw were slighter in weight and shorter, than the Catalina island foxes. It might seem impossible, but an island fox can emerge from the short grass along the roadside in a flash and be unseen until the instant it is in front of a car. Signs warning “Watch for Foxes” dot the few roads trying to alert unexpecting drivers. (road signs)

Most of the 12 island foxes we saw were wearing radio collars. Radio-collared foxes can be monitored by biologists and a new automated tracking system is being tested so that the movement of island foxes can be recorded in detail. The biologists are hoping this will provide greater understanding of island fox interactions and territories. Radio-collars also provide the first alert warning system for threats to island fox populations. (more on radio collars)

Dunes and grassland might seem inhospitable to a little fox, but it seems that sand fly larva may be providing an important food source for these foxes.

San Nicolas is a unique ecosystem and also home to endangered island night lizards and snowy plover. We saw one snowy plover and a number of other shore birds, including Western gull chicks. The beaches were busy with breeding California sea lions and resting immature elephant seals.

At night, sea lion barks hauntingly drifted up from the beaches. Fog streaked over the dry land. Here and there the wind would tear open a hole to expose the dark black sky with brilliant white stars.

San Nicolas Island is a wedge of sandstone cliffs carved by the waves of the Pacific Ocean. A unique landscape and home to the San Nicolas Island fox. - Keri Dearborn

Links to
Experiencing Santa Cruz Island
Experiencing Santa Rosa Island

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

CSI: Island Fox

What happens when an island fox is found dead?

A Critter Scene Investigation

Just like your favorite crime drama on TV, it takes a team of scientists to understand what has happened when an endangered island fox is found dead.

Determining the cause of death for an animal that has died is a critical component of island fox recovery. Radio collars worn by all released and wild-born foxes provide a unique signal when an animal is motionless for 12 hours. (more about radio collars)

When this signal is detected, field personnel locate the collar and collect the carcass if in fact the animal is deceased. Island fox carcasses are sent to Dr. Linda Munson at the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, where she and her staff perform necropsies (autopsies) to determine precisely what killed each animal.

Information from necropsies helped determine the direct association between the island foxes decline and predation by golden eagles on the Northern Channel Islands and disease on Santa Catalina Island.

Helping the island fox comes in a variety of forms. Necropsies continue to provide critical information on disease, health, and continuing predation issues. Each island fox necropsy requires several hours of veterinarian time and follow-up laboratory analysis, and costs approximately $250. Because this program is not otherwise funded, there is a growing need for help in funding this vital part of island fox conservation.

You can help a real CSI, a Critter Scene Investigation. Your donations to Friends of the Island Fox can help to fund important scientific work and island fox necropsies.

To donate through Pay Pal, click on the Pay Pal button at the upper right corner of the page.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Video of Wild Island Fox

What is small, but mighty? Only 3-6 lbs., but willing to stand its ground and protect its territory? An island fox.

Catalina Island Conservancy wildlife biologist Calvin Duncan
approached a wild fox’s territory, he took this video of an island fox on Santa Catalina Island.

Protecting territory is important for a pair of island foxes. They need a hunting area that will provide enough food to support themselves and their pups. How does an island fox let you know you are in its territory? Watch and see.

Images like this of an island fox in the wild are very rare. Island foxes on Santa Catalina Island declined dramatically
between 1998 and 2000 because of a disease, canine distemper, that was passed to them from a domestic dog. Today the estimated population has increased to approximately 572 individuals, slightly more than one third of their original number. Catalina island fox decline

The fact that island foxes are running wild again on Catalina, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and San Miguel Islands is due to the undaunted efforts of biologists, scientists, government agencies, private conservation organizations and concerned individuals like YOU.

When you support island fox conservation efforts YOU HELP to make sure that moments like this will continue into the future.

A special thanks to the Catalina Island Conservancy fox biologists Calvin Duncan and Julie King for sharing their experiences in the field with us. For more on their work with the Catalina island fox: Counting island foxes; Island Fox Health Check.

See video of an island fox release on San Miguel Island. Link

Island fox and fruit
What do island fox pups look like?
What do island foxes eat?

Why are they endangered?
More about island foxes

Monday, April 14, 2008

Earth Day and the Island Fox

This Saturday and Sunday,
Friends of the Island Fox
will be at the

Los Angeles Zoo Earth Day Expo 2008

April 19 and 20, 2008
10:00AM - 4PM

The event will highlight California Wildlife and part of that focus will be the endangered island fox.

The Los Angeles Zoo is home to a male San Clemente Island fox. FIF and representatives from the Channel Islands National Park will be up near the island fox enclosure providing activities throughout the day.

  • 11:30 AM & 2:30 PM Fox Health Check: Participate in all the steps that biologists do in the field to check the health of wild island foxes.

  • Noon & 3 PM Radio Tracking Demonstration: How do biologists find small island foxes on large islands? Come and help us a track a radio collared animal in the zoo.

  • 1 PM Exhibit Talk at the Island Fox Enclosure

Come out to the L.A. Zoo, help celebrate Earth Day and find out how you can help preserve California’s unique wildlife diversity like the endangered island fox.

Happy Birthday to Finnigan, The Island Fox

One of our favorite island foxes just turned 1 year old.

Finnigan, or Finn for short, was born last year at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Because his mother is an older fox, she did not nurse him and the Zoo staff had to hand raise him. See Finn's baby picture.

Fortunately this little island fox had the perfect personality to become an educational representative for all of his wild cousins. Finn makes guest appearances at special events at the Santa Barbara Zoo.

The Santa Barbara Zoo actively participates in island fox conservation and is the home of Finnigan, his parents, and two other island foxes. For more information on visiting the Santa Barbara Zoo and seeing the island foxes that live there.

Friends of the Island Fox sends our best wishes to a hard working island fox.

Happy, Healthy, First Birthday, Finnigan !

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Island Fox has Friends

If you have seen the Island Fox San Miguel Island 2006 Release video, you have heard the original music of David Lynch.

David’s guitar solos add heart and bounce to the video. One of the themes used in the video has currently climbed to #8 of 2,480 on the Neil Young website for original music. You can help David climb even higher in the ranking by placing your vote for the song "Mahatma"at:

Complete versions of
David Lynch’s music can be found on his CD “Dozen” available through his website.
David Lynch

The video was also edited by island fox friend Michael Lawshe. Michael is nominated for a Golden Reel Award this Saturday, February 23 for his work as Sound Supervisor on Smallville. Check out his blog at

CLICK the picture to watch the video.

The photo at the top, was taken by Peter Pendergest.

Without help from friends like David, Michael and Peter we wouldn’t have a video of the island foxes to show the public or photos to post on our website. Friends of the Island Fox thanks them for their support of island fox conservation and appreciates their efforts to get involved in helping to save the island fox.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Island Romance - Island Fox Mating Season

Island Romance - Island Fox Mating Season

Are you contemplating romance and Valentine’s Day? So are the island foxes. The cold blustery days from December to February are the perfect season for California’s Channel Island foxes to pair up and settle down in a cozy den.

During autumn, island fox families tend to split up. The youngsters, now over six months old, head off on their own and the parents take a vacation from family life and each other. With the arrival of winter, the monogamous mates come back together. (About the island fox)

Island foxes make their dens in a sheltered location, sometimes underground, in a tree stump or in amongst dense undergrowth. The male and female establish a territory around their den site and settle down to finding food for a family.

A few island foxes born last spring, will also be out looking for a mate. Even though they are less than a year old, some will become parents this spring. Because population numbers are still far below normal on San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina Islands, island foxes are breeding younger and having more offspring than they usually would. The abundance of island deer mice and other food items makes it possible for a pair of island foxes to raise five pups instead of the typical two or three.

Valentine’s Day 2008 will be very special on San Miguel and Santa Cruz Islands. For the first time since emergency captive breeding began in 2000, ALL of the island foxes on these two islands are once again free-roaming and choosing their own mates.
(2007 fox release on San Miguel Island) (2007 fox release on Santa Cruz Island).

Captive breeding programs saved the island foxes from extinction on both of these islands, but human matchmakers are never as good as the foxes themselves. We can all hope that this year there will be an increased number of island fox pups born on San Miguel and Santa Cruz Islands.

Eleven of the island foxes released in Channel Islands National Park are wearing radio-tracking collars funded through donations to Friends of the Island Fox. (radio collars)

Pups born in the spring and foxes slated for release from the captive breeding facility on Santa Rosa Island will soon be needing there own radio tracking collars. Your donation to Friends of the Island Fox helps to provide radio tracking collars vital to monitoring the recovery of endangered island foxes. You can donate through the PayPal and Cause for Good buttons in the upper right .

This Valentine’s Day give a truly romantic gift.
Help support a solution.

Working together we can SAVE the island fox.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Seventh Annual California Islands Symposium

The islands along California’s coast present a unique collection of habitats with various wildlife and human problems and successes. Island foxes live on six of these islands: Six Islands, Six Different Foxes.

Where can you find the most current information from the experts working in the field?

The 7th California Islands Symposium
5-7 February 2008

This gathering will bring together experts in archeology, anthropology, cultural resources, human history, population biology, ecological processes and systems, systematics, geology, paleontology, oceanography, and climatology.

The Symposium is a forum for the presentation of natural and cultural resource information collected on all of the California Islands - the Channel Islands, the Farallones, and the Baja Mexican islands - and their surrounding marine environments.

This important event will take place at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Oxnard, California. Presenters will include:

On-site registration
Three days: $200
One-day: $75
Student: $125

There will be a poster session and book signing event Tuesday evening, Feb. 5, from 5:30 PM - 8:00 PM

Poster session fee for educators: $10

Book Signing Authors:
  • Torben C. Rick - The Archaeology and Historical Ecology of Late Holocene San Miguel Island
  • Jan Timbrook - Chumash Ethnobotany: Plant Knowledge among the Chumash People of Southern California
  • Araceli Samaniego Herrera, Anny Peralta Garcia, and Alfonso Aguirre Munoz, editors - Vertebrados de las islas del Pacífico de Baja California. Guía de campo (Mammals of the Pacific Islands of Baja California.)
  • Betsy Lester Roberti - San Miguel Island: A Childhood Memoir

For more details and a complete listing of presentations: