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.