Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Give a Unique Holiday Gift - Saving an Island Fox

photo courtesy of Kevin Schafer
You can give the gift of saving an endangered species. Donations to Friends of the Island Fox go directly to conservation efforts in the field to continue the successful recovery of island foxes.

The island fox pictured on the ground is wearing a radio tracking collar.  To date members of the community like you have funded 56 radio tracking collars that allow field biologists to track island fox activity and respond quickly when an individual island fox dies. Early response enables scientists to determine the cause of death: golden eagle attack, disease, car strike or something unexpected. The faster biologists can respond to a specific threat, the quicker appropriate action can be taken to protect living island foxes.

Helping island foxes can take many forms:

  • $250 funds a radio tracking collar on an individual island fox for one year
  • $120 puts a “Watch for Foxes” sign along an area of road where foxes are being hit by cars. This is currently the number one cause of island fox fatality on Santa Catalina, San Clemente and San Nicolas Islands. (Five signs are currently needed on Santa Catalina.)
  • $50 provides the necessary testing of a blood sample to determine whether young island foxes are developing immunity to naturally occurring diseases
  • $10 vaccinates an island fox against its two greatest threats - rabies and distemper.
  • $10 provides for an identification microchip for an individual island fox

General donations to Friends of the Island Fox support our education efforts in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles Counties. (Island Fox Ambassador Schools, Island Fox in the Classroom, Community Fox Talk Programs) Long-term population recovery demands that local citizens understand the threats to island foxes and the important role foxes and people play in maintaining a balanced ecosystem on the islands. You can play an active role in the continued success of saving the island fox by donating today.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Good News For Channel Island Foxes

Autumn is always a busy time for biologists working to save the endangered island fox on the California Channel Islands. This is the time of year when island foxes are caught, counted and given health checks. Early reports from the islands have been very positive. (Santa Catalina Island fox numbers)

photo courtesy of Kevin Schafer
Biologist Tim Coonan from Channel Islands National Park believes that the San Miguel Island fox population may have recovered to its pre-decline levels. This would be fantastic news and a tribute to all of the National Park employees, government agencies, public and private institutions and local citizens that worked so hard to save this critically endangered mammal.

In 2000, only 15 island foxes remained on San Miguel Island. More on San Miguel. The journey to reestablishing that population to over 400 individuals is now documented in a new book written by the biologists who were in the field saving the island fox.

Decline and Recovery of the Island Fox: A Case Study for Population Recovery 
by Timothy J. Coonan, Catherin A. Schwemm and David K. Garcelon. (Ecology, Biodiversity and Conservation, 2010)

The book provides a scholarly account of island fox biology, the crisis that caused the island fox population to plummet on four separate islands and the actions that were taken to save this rare species from extinction. It looks at the ecological impact on the islands when the island fox population was crashing and the role that public education plays in conservation efforts.

The recovery of the endangered island fox is a conservation success story and a model for other threatened plants and animals. Friends of the Island Fox celebrates the publication of this important book with our friends Tim Coonan, Catherin Schwemm and Dave Garcelon. Tim was instrumental in conveying the need for an education organization to Friends of the Island Fox founder Pat Meyer, Cathy served on our Board of Directors for four years, and Dave has frequently been a valued source for information.

If you are a serious student of ecology and endangered species, you may want to put this book on your gift list. Link To Book

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Raccoons Don't Belong on Channel Islands

When is a cute raccoon a serious threat? When it is mistakenly transported to the Channel Islands.

The masked face of a raccoon makes us sigh and their antics can make us laugh, but raccoons pose a serious threat to native wildlife on the Channel Islands. Raccoons are not native to our California islands. Species like the island fox, spotted skunk and island birds have all evolved without raccoons and without the diseases and parasites that raccoons can carry.

Recent research has pointed to a raccoon as the origin of the distemper virus that nearly wiped out the island fox population on Santa Catalina Island between 1998-2000. Raccoons carry many diseases, like rabies, parvo and distemper, that are fatal to canines. The introduction of a single disease-infected raccoon could have drastic consequences for endangered island foxes and other unique island species. Support vaccinations.

How does a raccoon get all the way from Los Angeles or Santa Barbara to the Channel Islands?
In the past few years, raccoon populations have grown in harbor areas. This means that occasionally they wander onto private boats. Unsuspecting boat owners may have a stowaway raccoon that they unknowingly transport to the islands. While this scenario may seem unbelievable, it has happened on Catalina Island several times in the last two years. Because Catalina is fairly populated and Avalon is the primary port of entry, the Catalina Island Conservancy has been alerted to the arrival of  these raccoons. Usually the animal is caught within a short window of time, but one raccoon traveled to the interior of the island in just three days.

A raccoon accidentally introduced to Channel Islands National Park might go undetected for sometime, potentially coming in contact with numerous island animals.

Friends of the Island Fox urges all boat owners traveling to any of the Channel Islands to make sure there are no stowaway animals on your boat before leaving the harbor. Pass this information on to friends and family that may be boaters along the southern California coast.

Download the following Raccoon Awareness Flyer from the Catalina Island Conservancy and PASS IT ON. 

Public awareness can make the difference between survival and extinction for the endangered Channel Island fox.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Great News for the Island Fox From Catalina Island

Autumn is the time for counting island foxes across the Channel Islands and providing them with health checks. Early word from our friends at the Catalina Island Conservancy is that island fox numbers are up and they may see their population reach a 1000 this year! 

Considering that the Catalina Island fox was nearly wiped out by the introduction of the distemper virus in the late 1990s, the rebounding of the wild population is a huge success story. Friends of the Island Fox has participated in this recovery by funding radio tracking collars for island foxes on Catalina.

The CIC has posted a wonderful slide show of the whole capturing and health check process. Click HERE to visit the slide show.

Read more about Island Fox Health Checks and listen to biologist Julie King as she does a health check in the field.

Friends of the Fox offers an interactive Fox Health Check Presentation to teach children and adults about the island fox and the work biologists actually do in the field. 

To contact us regarding programs about the island fox: 805 228-4123 or

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Be a Friend of the Island Fox

How can you help the endangered island fox?

Everyday humans create mounds of trash. Too often that trash washes off sidewalks into gutters, down storm drains and into the ocean. Bits of plastic are dropped on the ground. Plastic bags swirl in the wind and end up in streams and seas.

A cast off fishing lure left on a rock can mean a horrible injury for a hungry island fox. Fox and the Fishing Hook

A plastic bag or balloon can be mistaken for a jellyfish by a hungry sea turtle.

Bits of plastic on the beach can get swept into the ocean by the incoming tide. Once plastic enters the ocean, fish and birds mistake the colorful bits for food. When they eat the toxic plastics it can mean their death or it can mean they are no longer healthy food for other animals in the foodweb like island foxes and humans.

Friends of the Island Fox is joining forces with the Channel Islands Park Foundation to clean-up the beach near the Channel Island National Park Visitor Center.

Join Us For:
Coastal Clean-Up Day
Sat. September 25, 2010
9 AM - Noon 

For More Information

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Friends of the Island Fox Funds Radio Collar #56

August 2010 brings exciting news and support for the island fox.
Island Fox Friends from Fresno Chaffee Zoo visit Santa Cruz Island

For the third year in a row the Fresno Chaffee Zoo’s Conservation Committee has awarded a conservation grant to Friends of the Island Fox.

The $1,000.00 grant will fund four radio collars to be worn by endangered island foxes on the northern islands. 

Radio collars provide biologists with information on where island foxes are living  and whether or not they are alive. (See Catalina Island Fire) If an island fox stops moving for 6 hours, the radio collar changes its regular transmission pattern to a “mortality beep.” This allows biologists to recover the body quickly and determine the cause of death (Necropsy).

Island foxes with radio collars provide the first alert that a golden eagle has returned to the Channel Islands, that disease has been introduced, or that some other unnatural situation could be impacting island foxes. See Fire Fox and The Island Fox and the Fishing Hook. This past spring, several island foxes were killed when a golden eagle returned to the island. (Santa Rosa)

With the grant funds provided by the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, Friends of the Island Fox has now funded 56 island fox radio collars: 42 for the northern islands in Channel Islands National Park and 14 for the southern island of Santa Catalina.

While island foxes on Santa Rosa Island faced additional challenges this year, populations are successfully recovering on San Miguel, Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina Islands.  A major part of that recovery is community involvement. Each island fox wearing a radio collar has a story and many of those stories begin with proactive people.

56 Radio Collars - Each one represents a personal donation, a community group like the Eaton Canyon Nature Center Associates, or the energy and conviction of a Fox Ambassador School.

You too can help save the endangered island fox by supporting conservation efforts and Friends of the Island Fox.

Monday, August 16, 2010

An Island Fox Meets A Bald Eagle

The Institute for Wildlife Studies' EagleCams watch the bald eagle nests on Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina Islands off the coast of California. Not only do they document eagles nesting and rearing their young, sometimes they also get a candid shot of how animals on the islands interact.

This short video from Santa Cruz shows a bald eagle chick almost ready to fly (large and dark brown in the center). Notice its wing numbers placed by biologists tracking its growth and life. But the video also shows an unexpected visitor to the nest. Watch closely in the lower right hand corner and you will see an island fox climb up into the eagle nest.

Island foxes and bald eagles have interconnected lives. Bald Eagle and the Island Fox.

Because bald eagles on the Channel Islands find most of their food in the ocean or along the shore, pollution in the marine ecosystem can have a negative effect on their survival.

Your actions can have an important direct effect on the survival of the endangered island fox. When you visit any of the six Channel Islands where island foxes live there are specific steps you can take to Keep Island Foxes Safe.

Even if you can't make the journey to the Channel Islands, you can help in beach clean up to keep the marine ecosystem safe for bald eagles and to pick up debris that can be life threatening to island foxes (Island Fox and the Fishing Hook).

Join Friends of the Island Fox as we pitch in with the Channel Island Park Foundation to clean-up local beaches as part of the 26th Annual California Coastal Cleanup Day on September 25. Volunteers will meet at the Channel Island National Park Visitor Center at 9 AM. For More Information.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Visiting the Island Fox

Summer is a great time to visit the California Channel Islands. As island fox populations recover from disease and predation by golden eagles that nearly pushed them to extinction, more people are having the opportunity to see island foxes in the wild. (Why island foxes are endangered)
Observing an endangered animal in the wild is a rare experience and it comes with responsibility. Here are a few important tips to remember when encountering an island fox:
  1. Do Not Feed Them - Island foxes are smart and they know people have food. But feeding an island fox can threaten its life. Human food is not good for island foxes and does not provide the necessary nutrition. Wild foxes, especially juveniles, that become dependent on handouts never learn to forage for natural food and can die when their free food source disappears.
  2. Store Food Appropriately - Island foxes are clever. Even campers who do not intentionally feed island foxes can sometimes become a source of food. We have heard cases of a single island fox taking an entire plastic bag with eight hamburger buns right off of a picnic table. Plastic and food wrappers can appear to be food and cause injury to island foxes. (see island fox and fishing hook) The NPS campgrounds offer food lockers to secure food items.
  3. Island Foxes Are Wild Animals - Even though the island foxes are cute and friendly, they are wild animals. A woman feeding an island fox on Santa Catalina Island was bitten. The Center for Disease Control can require that any fox that bites a person be euthanized to insure that it is not carrying rabies.
  4. Leave Your Pets At Home - Island foxes can acquire diseases from domestic dogs and cats. The distemper virus, which can be carried by dogs, caused the death of over 88% of the island foxes on Catalina in the late 1990s. As wild animals, island foxes can also carry diseases that are dangerous for pets–parvovirus, coronavirus and internal parasites. Some of these diseases can be transferred simply through animal droppings and do not require animal-to-animal contact. While many island foxes are vaccinated for rabies and distemper, not all of them are. It is illegal to take pet dogs or cats on to any of the islands that make up Channel Islands National Park. On Catalina Island dogs are required to be leashed. Several island foxes have been attacked and killed by free-roaming domestic dogs.
  5. Watch for Wildlife on Road - The increase of island foxes on Santa Catalina means that more foxes are being seen along the islands few roads. Because of their small size and gray coloring, island foxes can be hard to see especially at twilight. The number one cause of death for island foxes on Catalina is being hit by a car. Roadsigns
Southern Californians have worked very hard to save the island fox from extinction. The reward is that now we can see island foxes in the wild again. If we all act with respect and responsibility toward our friend the island fox, we can insure their continued success toward sustainable populations.

On Santa Cruz Island and Santa Rosa Island, in Channel Island National Park, visitors can see island foxes around the campgrounds, landing areas, and along hiking trails. Channel Islands National Park

On Santa Catalina Island, the increase of island foxes means that more individuals are being seen around the town of Avalon and the golf course. Island foxes can also be seen in the island’s interior. Catalina Island Conservancy

If you can’t travel out to the Channel Islands, you can visit island foxes in several local zoos.

Photos courtesy of Kevin Pease.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

12th Annual Meeting of the Island Fox Recovery Group

Last week biologists and land managers from across the Channel Islands came together to report on the current status of California's endangered island fox.

The news in 2010 is very positive. Conservation efforts are paying off in increased population numbers for all four of the endangered subspecies–San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina Islands. But even as there was discussion on the criteria needed to support a possible delisting from endangered status, the importance of monitoring these vulnerable populations was brought home.

In the early months of this year, 11 island foxes on Santa Rosa were killed by an unnatural predator, a golden eagle. A juvenile golden eagle was spotted on several occasions, but to date it has not been caught. The deaths of the endangered animals came to light because of individual island foxes that were radio collared and monitored.

Across the islands radio collars enable biologists to quickly locate a fox that has died. When the animal doesn't move at all for six hours the radio collar changes it signal to a "mortality" pattern. This timely knowledge enables the biologists to immediately find the carcass and begin to determine the cause of death. The sooner the cause of death is understood, the quicker steps can be taken to protect other island foxes.

Radio tracking collars play a vital role in monitoring island foxes and have helped these tiny animals to make an unprecedented recovery for an endangered mammal species. This is why Friends of the Island Fox has worked to raise funds to place radio collars on individual island foxes. (See Radio Collars)

As we distill down our notes from the Annual Conference and verify our information with the island fox biologists, we will be posting an update for each of the 6 subspecies of island foxes.

While there are still challenges ahead for endangered island foxes, population numbers are up and community awareness is growing. Friends of the Island Fox thanks all of you who have played a role in raising funds, educating the public, and working on island fox conservation. You have played an important role in bringing the island fox back from the brink of extinction.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Friends of the Island Fox at Placerita Nature Center

What is an island fox doing in a capture cage?

California's Channel Island fox is making a strong comeback thanks to the joint efforts of government agencies, private organizations and the general public. Conservation efforts include annual capture of island foxes to count their numbers and provide them with health checks. Join Keri Dearborn, V.P. of Education for Friends of the Island Fox at:

Placerita Nature Center
8:30 - 9:30 AM,
Saturday June 19th

Keri will explore why the island fox became endangered and what actions were taken to save them. She will also demonstrate how field biologists use radio tracking to monitor island fox health and welfare. The group will hike a short way into the chaparral for an opportunity to see how island foxes are trapped annually across the islands. Kids will have the opportunity to engage in the steps biologists use to preform a health check on an island fox in the field.

Following there will be a guided hike, lead by representatives from the Placerita Nature Center.

Join us for a fun opportunity to learn about field biology and the island fox in a beautiful natural setting. This event is FREE and for ages 5 and up.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A Box For A Fox - Blackstock Middle School Students Help Island Fox

Sixth grade students from Blackstock Middle School in Ventura, California reached out to help endangered island foxes. They made special donation boxes with the saying "A Box for A Fox."

Together the students in Mr. Mortenson's and Ms. Krause's classes collected enough money to help vaccinate island foxes against fatal diseases–rabies and canine distemper.

Blackstock Middle School joins a growing list of schools across southern California that have become Island Fox Ambassador Schools. Each class, grade or school in the Island Fox Ambassador Program participates in three steps:
  1. Learning about the island fox
  2. Sharing that knowledge with others
  3. Participating directly in supporting island fox conservation

Friends of the Island Fox - Island Fox Ambassadors
  • Westridge School, Pasadena
  • Hancock Park Elementary School, Los Angeles
  • Buena High School Environmental Club, Ventura
  • St. Cyril’s of Jerusalem School, Los Angeles
  • Santa Clara Elementary, Ventura
  • Santa Barbara Charter School, Santa Barbara
  • Carpenteria Family School, Santa Barbara
  • Blackstock Middle School, Ventura
For more information about the Island Fox Ambassador School Program contact us at

Thursday, May 27, 2010

More Island Fox Talk

What would an island fox say if it could talk?

Listen in as Friends of the Island Fox V.P. of Education Keri Dearborn returns to the EverGreen Show, an environmental education radio program produced for California State University, San Bernardino's Internet radio station.

They'll be discussing why the island fox was vulnerable to dramatic population decline and how the population is recovering.

The EverGreen Show airs:
  • Tuesday, June 1 from 6-6:30 PM
  • and replays Thursday, June 3 from 6-6:30 PM.

Listen to the Interview The interview as it aired is available in two parts:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Important Message from Friends of the Island Fox

Friends of the Island Fox has something important to tell you.

Please note that as of May 20, 2010 our phone number has changed.

The new phone number is (805) 228-4123.

For information on school visits or community programs about the endangered island fox, please use our new phone number or e-mail us at:

Thursday, May 06, 2010

It's Pupping Season for Island Foxes

Across the Channel Islands a new generation of island foxes are being born. Each litter of pups are an important step toward full recovery for the endangered populations on San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Santa Catalina Islands.

Island foxes reproduce only once a year, in the spring. This year's weather has been good for native plants which suggests we could see a large number of healthy island fox pups.

With small parents, island fox pups, or kits, are very tiny at birth. They weigh approximately the same as two AAA batteries and would easily fit in the palm of your hand.

Young foxes are very vulnerable and are born in a den. The den provides protection from weather and other animals
for the first weeks of their lives. Here the mother feeds them milk until they start to eat solid foods. The father brings food back to the den both for his mate and the pups.

Unlike most other canines, island foxes don't appear to dig. They must find a den site either in a hole dug by another island species, (spotted skunk, ground squirrels, etc.) or a naturally made hollow under dense vegetation, tree roots or rocks.
Pups born in March or April are emerging from dens on the islands in May. Both parents care for the youngsters, helping to feed them and teaching them how to find food. This pup is with its father, an older male, in the fog on San Nicolas Island.

Island foxes grow up fast and by September they will be ready to leave their parents and strike out on their own. Annual counting of island foxes doesn't occur until the fall to insure that pups are weaned and somewhat independent. During trapping and counting, island foxes also undergo annual health checks. Radio monitoring collars are replaced or put on and island foxes are given vaccinations against distemper and rabies.

Last year biologists recorded impacts on island foxes from climate change. Continued drought reduced fruit on the islands' native plants. The combination of increased temperatures, low rainfall and reduced food resources caused the litter size born to each pair of island foxes to be small. A normal island fox litter is 2-3 pups. In good years, litters of up to 5 pups are possible. Unfortunately, the pups born in 2009 also had reduced birth weight, impacting their survival.

This year's normal rain levels may bring more positive pup numbers. Biologists are hoping for numerous healthy pups to continue the island fox's successful recovery.

Monday, April 26, 2010

How Do Island Foxes Protect Themselves?

We recently received an interesting question from a student:

How do island foxes protect themselves?

The island fox protects itself like any member of the dog family.
  • It can run away. An island fox can run fairly fast, even leaping as it sprints. (watch M67 run as he is released into the wild) Because of its small size, an island fox can run under and through dense chaparral and grasses.
  • Its coloration also helps the island fox hide, this is called cryptic coloration or camouflage.
  • It can climb, either up steep rocks or even up into trees to escape.
  • It can bark to scare away a threat. (video of barking island fox)
  • It can bite. It has sharp teeth and can bite like any small dog.
Why do they need to protect themselves?

Island foxes protect themselves against each other. During the breeding season, pairs of island foxes defend the territory where they are raising their pups. This island fox probably lost its ear in a scrape with another island fox. (photo courtesy of Geoffrey Grow)

Prior to 500 years ago and the arrival of European people, island foxes did not have any kind of a predator from which they needed to defend themselves. Today island foxes need to defend themselves from people, pet dogs, feral cats (cats that have gone wild), cars (on San Nicolas, San Clemente, and Santa Catalina Islands), occasionally golden eagles and introduced raccoons (on Santa Catalina Island).

Already this year, an island fox was killed by a pet dog on Santa Catalina Island. Feral cats are currently being trapped and relocated away from San Nicolas Island to protect island foxes and other endemic island species. Friends of the Island Fox works with the islands where foxes are hit by cars. One of our Ambassador Schools
raised funds to add signs along roads to encourage motorists to watch for island foxes.

Disease introduced either by domestic dogs and cats or raccoons accidentally introduced to the islands can be fatal to island foxes. A $10 donation can vaccinate an island fox against rabies and distemper. Friends of the Island Fox works with Channel Islands National Park and the Catalina Island Conservancy to help fund vaccinations. Private donors and Ambassador Schools have played a vital role in providing vaccinations for endangered island foxes.

You can help protect island foxes. Your donation can go a long way toward educating the local community and providing vaccinations for island foxes.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Celebrate Earth Day With The Island Fox

This weekend you can help celebrate Earth Day with the endangered island fox. Friends of the Island Fox will be at:

Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Saturday and Sunday, April 17 & 18
10 AM - 4 PM

The L. A. Zoo will be highlighting California species as part of their Earth Day celebration. Friends of the Island Fox will be on hand to offer special activities both days:

  • 11:30 AM - Radio Tracking Demonstration
  • 12:00 PM - Island Fox Exhibit Talk
  • 2:30 PM - Island Fox Exhibit Talk
  • 3:00 PM - Radio Tracking Demonstration

We will be located near the island fox exhibit in the heart of the Zoo. Come by, say ‘Hello’ and meet an island fox.

For L.A. Zoo hours and directions:

Both the L.A. Zoo and the Santa Barbara Zoo played an important role in developing husbandry methods that contributed to the success of captive breeding for the island fox. Saving endangered species depends on knowledge about dietary needs and reproductive behavior. Zoos can play an important role in increasing scientific understanding and providing public education about endangered species. Come out and support the zoo’s conservation efforts

Monday, March 08, 2010

Talking About Island Foxes

What would an island fox say if it could talk?

That is the question Friends of the Island Fox V.P. of Education Keri Dearborn will be exploring on the EverGreen Show, an environmental education radio show produced for California State University, San Bernardino's Internet radio station.

Listen in and hear why the island fox is so important to the island ecosystems and what you can do to help endangered island foxes.

The EverGreen Show airs:
  • Tuesday, March 9 from 6-6:30 PM
  • and replays Thursday, March 11 from 6-6:30 PM.

CLICK HERE to Listen to the interview from CSUSB Coyote Radio

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Friends of the Island Fox Funds #50

Today is a Landmark Day.

Friends of the Island Fox is proud to announce the funding of our 50th radio collar!

Despite the difficult economic times, people like you have stepped forward to play an active role in saving the endangered island fox.

Radio collars play an important role in allowing biologists to track fox behavior, monitor fox health and determine threats to fox survival. Radio collar on fire fox

In 2000, four populations of island foxes teetered toward extinction. Why island fox's were endangered

Today, with your help and support, island fox populations are recovering. Current populations

Because island foxes live only on the Channel Islands, like all island species they are small populations that can be quickly impacted by the introduction of disease, ecosystem imbalance and potentially, climate change.

Your support of island fox conservation efforts is vital to the survival of this endangered California species.

As we begin 2010, Friends of the Island Fox thanks all of you for renewing your effort to insure that this keystone species survives into the future.

You can help fund additional radio collars, vaccinations and conservation efforts by CLICKING on the Donate Now buttons at the top of the page.