Sunday, December 16, 2012

Island Fox Populations Recovering

photo courtesy of Kim Michaels,
What is the current status of the endangered Channel Island fox? In 2012 the Channel Island fox is robustly heading toward population recovery! Across all islands 90% of the population is surviving on an annual basis.

Every June biologists working with the endangered Channel Island fox come together to share information and update each other on the island foxes populating their island. June Meeting

The general consensus is that endangered populations on San Miguel, Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina Islands are all headed toward or reaching levels of recovery. (Habitat) The Santa Rosa Island fox is now increasing in number, but still is at a much lower population number than before the predation crisis caused by golden eagles and habitat destruction.

Island foxes are counted annually across the California Channel Islands in the late summer and early fall.  Animals are captured in safe traps so they can be given health checks, fitted with radio collars and given vaccinations. Friends of the Island Fox financially supports these conservation efforts.

In 2012 FIF financially supported 14 radio monitoring collars and provided funding for vaccinations against the distemper virus for 450 island foxes.

The official population estimates from 2011 are:

  • San Miguel Island - 581 (up from 15 individuals in 2000)
  • Santa Rosa Island - 449 (up from 15 individuals in 2000)
  • Santa Cruz Island - 1302 (up from ~80 in 2000)
  • Santa Catalina Island - 1542 (up from ~103 in 2000)
  • San Nicolas Island - ~500
  • San Clemente Island - 795
numbers represent the Santa Rosa Island population (pink line)

The recovery of the endangered Channel Island fox is one of the fasted recoveries of an endangered species in North American history. The populations on San Miguel and Santa Catalina Islands have surpassed historically recorded numbers and this year the slight drop in population on Santa Cruz Island was seen as a stabilization of a population that has reached the island’s carrying capacity.

This year the Island Fox Working Group discussed the process for delisting the island fox from the Endangered Species List. Continued monitoring to assure the populations are stable is vital to this process. You can play an important role by helping support island fox monitoring.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Education and the Channel Island Fox

photo courtesy of Inge Rose
You can’t care about an animal and its ecosystem if you don’t know about it.

This year Friends of the Island Fox programs reached:
  • Over 1,200 students in classrooms across Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles Counties.
  • Our volunteers provided “Fox Talk” presentations to over 1,500 children and adults in community groups, nature centers, state parks and at Channel Islands National Park.

Understanding the importance of this small little fox as a keystone predator on the islands has inspired students and people across the country to help fund island fox conservation.

Education is one of our primary goals and your donations to Friends of the Island Fox make it possible for us to provide education programs.

Each classroom offers the opportunity to teach our next generation about the native plants and animals that are their neighbors. Local wildlife depends on human neighbors that respect and value the environment. 

FIF also grew its participation in continuing adult education through our relationship with Road Scholar. Our programs on the Channel Island fox have become an important part of Road Scholar’s adventures to Coastal California and Channel Islands National Park.

photo courtesy of Paul Bronstein
This holiday you can give the gift of education by supporting Friends of the Island Fox in someone’s honor.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Channel Island Fox and People

Island foxes have a long history with people.  We don't know for sure how island foxes first arrived on the Channel Islands. There are two basic theories:
  1. Gray foxes were stranded on the northern islands during the ice age when water levels were lower and the distance from the mainland to the islands was approximately four miles. The water level was low enough that San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Anacapa were one big island. Other animals like mammoths swam over to the island and lived there as well. Over thousands of years both the island fox and the mammoth adapted to smaller territory and less resources on the islands and became dwarf in size.
  2. Native Americans transported mainland gray foxes out to the islands and over a few thousand years the species evolved to be the island fox.

There is very little fossil evidence of foxes on the islands. Scientists are currently evaluating 6,000-year-old-fossil fox bones found on the northern islands to determine if they are island fox bones or bones of the ancestral gray fox. If the DNA shows the remains belonged to an island fox then it is more likely that this island species was on the Channel Islands before humans arrived in North America.

For at least several thousand years, island foxes interacted with the island communities of Chumash people. On Santa Cruz Island, Chumash villages existed in the areas of both Scorpion Anchorage and Prisoner’s Harbor. Over time, these native people transported island foxes to the southern islands of Santa Catalina, San Clemente and San Nicolas.

The island fox was not a pet, it was a wild animal that lived side-by-side with the native people. Images of island foxes appear in rock art on Santa Catalina Island and archeologists have found ancient ceremonial burials of island foxes in several locations.

Island foxes lived on San Nicolas Island with the Lone Woman whose story was told in the novel “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’Dell. The facts of this classic story of survival are gradually coming to light. Archeologists have recently found the cave on this treeless, windswept island where the woman found shelter. L.A. Times article

treeless San Nicolas Island, one of the California Channel Islands
As more artifacts are uncovered, we may finally know who this woman was and what interactions she had with animals, like the island fox, that shared the island with her.

Today, campers and day visitors are interacting with the island fox. When you stop and watch an island fox, you are a time traveler seeing what native people saw thousands of years ago.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

400 Endangered Island Foxes Protected

photo courtesy of Melissa Baffa
These two island fox pups born on the Channel Islands this year have a glowing future because their human neighbors care about protecting them.

Friends of the Island Fox is thrilled to announce that the Fresno Chaffee Zoo has awarded us a Conservation Grant of $2,000 to vaccinate 200 endangered Channel Island foxes against canine distemper.

This is a doubly rewarding acknowledgement because:

  1. These matching funds combine with private donations raised this summer to meet our goal of $4,000 to vaccinate 100 endangered island foxes against canine distemper on FOUR islands.
  2. This is also the sixth year that the Fresno Chaffee Zoo has supported conservation efforts on behalf of the endangered Channel Island fox. In previous years they have funded radio tracking collars on individual island foxes.
It is heartening when a local California zoo sees the importance of supporting conservation of a local endangered species. The Fresno Chaffee Zoo has been a strong partner in helping to save the endangered island fox and we thank them for recognizing the continued success of island fox recovery depends on proactive vaccination against disease.

Thank you to everyone who supported our canine distemper vaccination drive this summer.

You helped protect 400 Channel Island foxes from canine distemper in 2012 !

Friday, September 07, 2012

Coastal Clean-up Day 2012 and the Island Fox

You don't have to travel to the Channel Islands to help the endangered Channel Island fox. Kelp forests surrounding the islands provide important habitat for fish and other sea life. Birds and marine mammals depend on these resources, and indirectly so does the island fox.

From our local beach to the islands, trash harms animals and people. You can make a difference.

Friends of the Island Fox and 
invite you to join us on the beach 

for Coastal Clean-up Day

Saturday, Sept. 15 from 9 AM to Noon 

 Meet at Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center

Keeping the local marine habitat debris free is vital to creatures of all shapes and sizes. Island fox and the fishing hook.

We live beside a thriving marine community. You can help keep it that way for island foxes and bald eagles, dolphins and whales, yourself and your family.

Special thanks to photographer Jessica Martinoff for her photos taken on the Friends of the Island Fox Trip to Santa Cruz Island.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Foxy Ladies Help Island Foxes

Why is that Channel Island fox in a cage?

Each year in late summer / early autumn, island foxes are caught in safe capture cages so that their numbers can be counted. This also allows the biologists on the six islands, where the island foxes live, to check the health of individual foxes, replace old radio tracking collars and to vaccinate the island foxes against disease.

Canine distemper virus and rabies pose a serious threat to the endangered Channel Island fox. Distemper virus nearly caused the extinction of the Santa Catalina Island fox between 1994 and 2000. The population crashed from 1,342 individuals to 165.

The four endangered subspecies of island foxes on San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina Islands are successfully recovering and the job of protecting them from disease is a priority. Island foxes have territories that overlap. Recent studies modeling how distemper travels through island fox populations conclude that the best way to protect a viable percentage of island foxes in the event of distemper introduction is to vaccinate a minimum of 100 individuals. And since the vaccine’s protection against the disease only lasts one year, a minimum of 100 island foxes need to be vaccinated on each island annually.

This year Friends of the Island Fox set a goal of raising $2,000 to fund canine distemper vaccinations for 100 foxes on two of the four islands where they are an endangered species. ($10 vaccinates an island fox against canine distemper)

Rita Mays (left) and some of the El Segundo Ladies Golf Club's Foxy Ladies

In August 2012 The Foxy Ladies, the women of the El Segundo Ladies Golf Club, took a big swing at our goal. They held a Golf Tournament to raise funds for island fox vaccinations and they raised $1,600!

Thanks to Rita Mays, the tournament organizer, and her golf-playing
Foxy Ladies, 160 island foxes will be protected from canine distemper this year.

From golf tournaments to baseball games, to island trips, to lifelong learning programs for Road Scholar, our summer drive has surpassed our goal!

You helped us raise $2,960 for vaccinations ! 

Every $10 raised helps to protect an endangered island fox from this very contagious disease. This will protect 296 foxes. 

Can we make it 400? 

A 100 island foxes vaccinated on four islands? You can help make a difference by donating too.

Annual trapping is happening across the Channel Islands. Follow the story of island foxes Tani and Tiptu, and their pup Meymey, on Twitter and Facebook as they experience fall trapping and health checks.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Santa Cruz Island Wetland

Look closely for the small pond in front of the dead tree.
Can there be a wetland on a dry island? Yes.

Santa Cruz Island is the largest of the Southern California Channel Islands. The eastern side of the island is composed of porous volcanic rock. Rain water peculates through the rock and comes to the surface as springs in a few areas. One of these areas is at Prisoner's Harbor.

In the past couple of years the wetland at Prisoner's Harbor has been going through restoration. Landfill was removed so the springs were once again able to reach the surface and therefore become a resting spot for migratory birds. A dead tree or snag was left in place as a perching area. The rare island scrub-jay, insect eating black phoebes and a variety of birds are using this natural perch.

This spring native willows, grasses and even oaks were carefully planted. Brightly colored flags, mark the different vegetation areas that are delineated by elevation. Small variation in elevation means differing amounts of freshwater. 

Looking across the restored wetland toward the sea.
Wetlands are rapidly disappearing along the California coast. The restoration of this wetland helps not only the endangered island fox on Santa Cruz Island, but a wide range of species on this island.

This is the area of Santa Cruz Island where our facebook and Twitter island fox family lives along side an island scrub-jay family. Follow their adventures on-line or in the black box on the right edge of this page.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

An Island Fox with a Will to Live

male island fox after recovery from leg amputation
FIF strives to connect the scientists in the field with the local community that cares about Channel Island foxes. We are thrilled to offer this:
Report from the Field
By Calvin Duncan, Island Fox Biologist, Catalina Island Conservancy
No matter how many times it happens, it is always amazing to see the resilience of animals and their ability to bounce back from serious injury. While conducting the annual Island-wide fox trapping survey and vaccination efforts last fall, Conservancy biologists captured a five-year-old male fox suffering from a compound fracture (broken bones exposed through skin) on his rear right leg.

The injury occurred several weeks prior to his capture and we suspect that another dominant male fox in the area was likely to blame. “Island foxes are extremely territorial” reports Julie King, the Conservancy’s senior wildlife biologist. “Injuries sustained by fighting males can often be permanently debilitating or even fatal.”
In most cases the proper approach is to let nature, as cruel as it may often be, take its course, but the Conservancy is still actively working to recover the Catalina Island fox population from its near extinction in 1999. For that reason, we actively treat injuries detected in the field and work to improve the health and survival of each fox captured during the annual survey. Approximately 80% of the fox population on Catalina Island is also vaccinated against both canine distemper virus (CDV) and rabies as a means of protecting the population against another potential disease introduction.
In this particular case, the injured fox was immediately transported to the Animal Clinic in Catalina for assessment and potential treatment. In addition to the obvious leg injury the fox was also extremely thin due to its inability to effectively forage for several weeks. Conservancy biologists consulted with Avalon veterinarian Dr. Richard Denney and agreed upon an approach that would require the amputation of the injured leg.
According to Julie King there have been several wild foxes on Catalina and the other Channel Islands that have sustained injuries where the amputation of a leg was necessary and the foxes were released and survived.
“At the conclusion of the captive breeding program in 2004, an adult female was released with only three legs” says Julie King, “while monitoring her post-release, she was found to have traveled several miles before settling into a territory and successfully raising pups.”
Biologist Calvin Duncan with recovering fox
Though the bone fracture on the male island fox occurred within the tarsal bones or “ankle joint,” the leg was amputated mid- femur and the remaining nub was tucked under the skin. According to Dr. Denney this was necessary in order to eliminate the chance that the fox would attempt to walk on the remaining limb leading to abrasions and potential infection.
After the surgery the fox was transported to the Conservancy’s Middle Ranch Wildlife Field Clinic where he was cared for by Conservancy biologists during his twenty-day recovery.
On October 4, 2011 he was fitted with a radio collar and successfully released at his original capture location. We continue to monitor this fox as he makes his adjustment back into the wild and to date he is doing well.
This is another example of how radio collars are used to help monitor individual island foxes.

Video of an island fox barking taken by Calvin Duncan

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Channel Island Foxes Reaching Recovery!

courtesy of Anita Machlis
Twelve years ago, four subspecies of Channel Island foxes almost went extinct. Today in 2012, all populations are stable or increasing. The three populations of island foxes on San Miguel, Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina Islands have reached or are approaching the historic numbers documented before introduced disease and predation by golden eagles caused catastrophic declines.

Yesterday, June 12, 2012, the biologists, field researchers, scientists, veterinarians, government agencies and conservation organizations that make up the Integrated Island Fox Recovery Team met to report on each island fox population, compare findings and discuss actions to be taken in the coming year.

It was a day of good news:

  • no island foxes killed by golden eagles since January of 2011
  • reduced numbers of island foxes hit by cars
  • increased numbers of pups born in 2011
  • no raccoons accidentally transported to Santa Catalina Island so far in 2012
  • introduced mule deer and elk have been removed from Santa Rosa Island

And changing concerns:

  • to protect island foxes from the canine distemper virus, vaccinations must be given annually
  • increasing island fox populations mean more interactions between wild island foxes and humans and/or their pets
  • decreasing funds for monitoring efforts
  • need for greater understanding of naturally occurring diseases and parasites
  • need for greater understanding of natural island fox diet and impacts from interactions with humans
It was exciting to see the growing community of scientists interested in researching island foxes and the Channel Island ecosystems. There were representatives from:
  • University of California, Davis and Los Angeles
  • Smithsonian
  • Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
  • Colorado State University
  • University of Wyoming

In twelve years, the San Miguel Island fox has gone from a low of 15 individuals to a thriving 581. This is an amazing population increase of 3,830%, as reported in “On Time, On Target; How the Endangered Species Act Is Saving America’s Wildlife” compiled by the Center for Biological Diversity.

At the heart of this successful recovery is the Integrated Island Fox Recovery Team and the joint effort of people from Channel Islands National Park, Catalina Island Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Institute for Wildlife Studies, the U.S. Navy, CA Dept. of Fish & Game and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, all working together, sharing information and experience. When you add concerned private citizens like you who help support continued monitoring of island foxes by funding radio collars and annual vaccinations, you have one of the most successful efforts to save an endangered species in history.

Check back in the next few weeks for details from annual meeting.

Monday, May 14, 2012


The endangered Channel Island fox has new friends! 

Over a thousand miles away from the California coast, in Fort Collins, Colorado, the Foxes Baseball Club is rallying behind the island fox. On June 10, 2012 the Foxes will pitch-in for the endangered island fox by raising funds to benefit Channel Island fox conservation. For more on their special drawing.

The Foxes are part of the summer Mountain Collegiate Baseball League and their logo shares a common interest with Friends of the Island Fox–FOXES!  

Through June 10th, the baseball club is also donating 15% of the Internet proceeds from baseball cap sales to support Friends of the Island Fox. Visit the Fort Collins Foxes website and see if there is a fox cap for you.

If you're in the Fort Collins, Colorado vicinity check out:

Fort Collins Foxes vs Casper Cutthroats 
6:15 PM Sunday, June 10 

...and cheer on the team to a home run for island foxes.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Protecting Island Foxes from Canine Distemper Virus

Island Foxes need your Help! As the endangered populations of Channel Island foxes on San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina Islands reach recovery levels, a threat to their survival looms–the introduction of disease.

In the late 1990s canine distemper virus almost wiped out the island foxes on Santa Catalina Island. This virus is related to the measles virus that impacts people and, like that disease vaccination, is the the best protection against it. Pet dogs are vaccinated against canine distemper virus because it is highly contagious and easily transferred from one animal to another either directly or indirectly. There is no known cure for distemper and it is lethal to a high percentage of animals that become infected. Other mammals can be impacted by distemper viruses as well–sea lions, most wild members of the dog family, lions, raccoons. It was a raccoon from the mainland that transported the deadly canine distemper virus to Catalina Island.
Canine distemper is in the news again. As of April 2012, canine distemper virus caused the death of a number of kit foxes in the Mojave Desert in conjunction with an area being developed for solar energy.

People provide pathways for disease to find its way to isolated locations, like the desert and the Channel Islands. The threat of canine distemper virus reoccurring on the Channel Islands is high. To protect Channel Island foxes it is vital that at least 100 island foxes are vaccinated each year on each island.

Island foxes can be easily vaccinated during the late summer population count and health checks. But each vaccination has a cost. The vaccination shot alone costs $10 per island fox.

Help us vaccinate 200 island foxes this Fall.

Friends of the Island Fox is trying to raise $2,000 to vaccinate 200 island foxes. You can play an important role in protecting the rare Channel Island fox. Every $10 dollars helps protect the future for island foxes.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Island Fox Pups

Across the Channel Islands, island fox pups are being born. For their first months of life they look more like little brown bears than their dramatically marked parents. 

Typically, island foxes become parents in their second year, but sometimes a male or female may become a first-time parent before they are a year old.

Most island fox pairs have 2-3 pups in a litter, but a young female like our Twitter fox, Tani, might have only one pup. 

This year rainfall on the Channel Islands has been low to normal. Weather can also affect the number of pups born because rainfall can impact food resources. Annual rainfall.

island fox bringing 3 deer mice home for family, photo courtesy NPS
While female island foxes are in their dens with their new born pups, the fathers play the role of providers, bringing food to their mate and eventually the pups. 

Over the last year Friends of the Island Fox has followed Tani, an island fox character, as she grew up and became a mother herself. Join us as we follow Tani's mate, Tiptu, and get a male fox's perspective over the next few months on Twitter and Facebook. Tiptu, is "big ears" in Chumash, the local native American language. Tiptu has befriended another rare animal only found on the Channel Islands - an island scrub-jay. 

Island scrub-jays have a family structure similar to the island fox, so Jay will have insight to help his friend the island fox through his first year as a father. The island scrub-jays are nesting as well. Spring brings all kinds of new life to the Channel Islands.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Channel Island Foxes Celebrate Earth Day

Yippee! Channel island foxes have much to celebrate this Earth Day. Across the four islands, where island foxes were listed as endangered in 2005, pups are being born this month. The San Miguel Island fox that nearly went extinct with only 15 surviving foxes has seen a population recovery in record time. Current Island Fox Numbers 

Come Celebrate Earth Day with Friends of the Island Fox at the

Saturday, April 21 and Sunday, April 22
10 AM - 3 PM

April is pupping season! We'll be celebrating the newest generation of Channel Island foxes. Tani, the FIF Twitter fox, has gone into her den preparing for the birth of her offspring. Follow her on facebook. Across the islands wild female island foxes are doing the same thing.

Visit the FIF booth on Earth Day and see:
  • the size of an island fox pup
  • an island fox print that we made on Santa Cruz Island in March
Come to a Fox Talk at the island fox enclosure at Noon & 2 PM both days.

Join in a new activity to challenge your sense of smell. Can you follow a scent trail like an island fox?

Bald eagles reintroduced to the islands are thriving. A record 15 pairs are nesting across the Channel Islands. You can watch bald eagle chicks growing up on the live eagle-cams:
Channel Islands National Park eagle cams
Catalina Island eagle cams

Across the Channel Islands there is much to celebrate. You can see the recovery of wildlife yourself by joining Friends of the Island Fox on a trip to Santa Cruz Island on May 5, 2012.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Where to See An Island Fox 2012 Update

Wild populations of island foxes are increasing toward recovery across the California Channel Islands and with each year the opportunity to see an island fox in its natural environment increases.

But not everyone can journey to the islands or spend time in wilderness areas. A small number of island foxes can be found in captive facilities. 

Tachi, Catalina Island Conservancy
On the island of Santa Catalina the Catalina Island Conservancy cares for Tachi, an island fox that can not be released into the wild. Tachi makes appearances at special events on Santa Catalina Island and she can be seen on a special tour into the island's interior.

Several zoos exhibit island foxes from San Clemente Island. This subspecies of island fox is not listed as endangered but is still vulnerable to population declines because it is found only on San Clemente Island and no where else in the world. Captive management of the San Clemente Island fox helped develop husbandry techniques and establish veterinary care procedures for the endangered subspecies of foxes on the northern islands and Santa Catalina Island.

You Can Also See Island Foxes At:

Santa Barbara Zoo

The Santa Barbara Zoo exhibits a male from Santa Rosa Island that requires daily medical care due to a chronic eye condition. They also maintain the Stud Book or breeding records for all the island foxes in captivity on the mainland.

San Clemente island fox at L.A. Zoo

Los Angeles Zoo

The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens exhibits a male that was the first island fox born in captivity at the Santa Barbara Zoo. He is an older fox and the father of two pups, that are now adults and living at other facilities.

Friends of the Island Fox participates in an Earth Day celebration of California wildlife in conjunction with the Docent Conservation Committee at the Los Angeles Zoo in April.

Exhibits a Male born at the Santa Barbara Zoo

CuriOdyssey at Coyote Point
Exhibits a Male born at the Los Angeles Zoo

Exhibits a Male born at the Los Angeles Zoo

California Living Museum- Bakersfield
Exhibits a Male from San Clemente Island

Even if you can’t venture over to the Channel Islands, zoos that are helping save the species can give you an opportunity to see an island fox in person. This rare species is one of California’s precious treasures.

What is it like on the islands?

Experiencing Santa Cruz Island
Habitat Restoration on Santa Cruz Island
Experiencing Santa Rosa Island

Travel with Friends of the Island Fox to Santa Cruz Island, May 5, 2012

Getting there - Island Packers

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Channel Island Fox and Biodiversity

Across the islands female Channel Island foxes are getting ready to have their pups. 

At first glance, the Channel Islands may appear barren, but a closer look reveals a rich diversity of plants and animals. Many of these species, like the island fox, are endemic and found no where else in the world. 
Join Friends of the Island Fox in a Trip to Santa Cruz Island

What can you see on Santa Cruz Island in just a few hours? 

Island Journal - Santa Cruz Island, March 29, 2012

giant coreopsis
Pat Meyer, Michael Lawshe and I went out to Prisoner's Harbor on Santa Cruz Island to investigate the restoration work on the wetland area. Winter rains came late this year, but the hillsides were in bloom with giant coreopsis (the island's strange species of bush daisy, a favorite food of island deer mice), blue dick, island morning glory, scarlet and bush monkey flower and lemonade berry, which provides important food for birds and island foxes. 

bramble-green hair streak; a new species for us
Western swallowtail, painted lady and several species of blue and hair streak butterflies were busy visiting the flowers. Island fence lizards and a side-blotched lizard were out enjoying the sunshine and snacking on the insects.

Insects were also on the menu for a black phoebe, Say's phoebe and barn swallows flying over the restored wetland. In the willows we even spotted a warbling vireo and the rare island scrub-jay.

In all we noted 25 plant species (many of them island endemics), 33 species of birds (including over 1000 migrating western grebes, an osprey and the Channel Island subspecies of Allen's hummingbird and Bewick's wren). Full Bird List.

Then just before we boarded the boat for home, a group of school children spotted an island fox!

Channel Island fox
This is the first island fox we have seen in part of the island and shows how the population recovery is once again making island foxes plentiful across all of Santa Cruz Island.

bottlenose dolphin with calf
When you add this to the common and bottlenose dolphins, and the migrating gray whales we saw during the crossing, it was a fantastic day! (More on the wetland restoration, later) 
- Keri Dearborn, FIF Education Director

You can spend a day on Santa Cruz Island too! 
FIF Trip to Santa Cruz Island, April 6, 2013.

Across the Channel Islands, female island foxes, like Tani and the one seen at Prisoner's Harbor, are separating themselves from their diverse island world and going into the shelter of their dens to prepare for giving birth. The recent spring rains may help support the island biodiversity that the Channel Island fox needs to survive. We can all hope that new pups will help to continue the recovery of the endangered populations.

Island Journal - Santa Cruz Island 
Visiting Island Foxes on Santa Cruz Island
Restoring Habitat on Santa Cruz Island, 2012 
Island Fox Releases on Santa Cruz Island, 2007

Monday, March 12, 2012

Santa Cruz Trip with FIF

Join Friends of the Island Fox for:

A Trip to Santa Cruz Island
Saturday, May 5, 2012
to Look For The Island Fox

Please join us when we visit Santa Cruz Island for a tour with our educators.  We will look for the endangered island fox, plus the many other endemic species, both plants and animals, found only on this island and nowhere else.  On the trip over to Santa Cruz (about 1 hour) there is the possibility of seeing many marine species.

Tickets for adults will be $65.00 per person, children $55.00. A percentage of the fee will go to support island fox recovery efforts.

We will take the Island Packers boat from Ventura Harbor leaving at noon and returning around 5 PM on Saturday May 5, 2012.  Check in will be required at 11:15 AM

Reservations are limited and will be provided on a first come basis. To book reservations, please download the Reservation Booking Form (Click Here to download pdf)  

Island fox trying to take food from backpack.
Send the completed form with your check, made payable to the "Friends of the Island Fox" to the address on the form.  Reservations will be taken in the order received, and no reservations can be accepted without payment.

Before the island visit you are welcome to join us at 9:30 AM at the Channel Islands National Park Visitors Center at 1901 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura.  We will tour the native plant garden, visit the Center and you will have the chance to view the Channel Islands National Park film “Treasure in the Sea” narrated by Kevin Costner. 

At the time of booking you will receive further details of the trip, including where to meet, what to pack, the suggested clothing and other items of interest. Note the photo above. Food items will need to be secured at all time. What to remember when visiting the island fox.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Climate and Island Foxes

Santa Catalina Island
Across the six islands that are home to island foxes (Habitat), pairs like Tani and Tiptu are breeding and finding an appropriate den site. Island fox pups are typically born in late April.

Like all wild animals, island fox reproduction is impacted by the amount of local resources–food, water and territory. As endangered populations of island foxes have recovered, there have been several years where female foxes have had large litters of pups. Typically two pups are born in a litter, but when resources are abundant there can be as many as five pups.

Because the recovering endangered populations were small, there was little competition for territory and food. In the mid-2000s, it was not unusual for island foxes on San Miguel to have litters of three to five pups. With large litters of offspring the San Miguel Island population, that had nearly gone extinct in 2000 when there were only 15 surviving individuals, was able to exponentially increase each year.  Graph

But severe climate can greatly reduce the resources available to island foxes. 2007 was the driest year on record in southern California since National Weather Service records began in 1878; less than four inches of rain fell. The lack of rainfall reduced the plant foods on the islands which reduced the deer mice, insects and bird life. Without winter rains, the Catalina cherry, native currants, toyon and other fruit producing plants produced less fruit for the foxes to eat. Less food, meant fewer island fox pups were born or survived. The winter seasons of 2008 - 2011 averaged approximately 12 inches of rain, the low side of normal, but still enough that Channel Island wildlife flourished.

This winter season is showing early signs of drought. As mid-March approaches the Los Angeles area has received less than six inches of rain. This year if spring rains do not arrive, we may see fewer island foxes born and fewer that will survive. Climate fluctuations act to moderate animal and plant populations, but climate change means greater weather extremes. Drought in 2012 could make it more difficult for young island foxes like Tani to successfully reproduce and could slow down the recovery of endangered island foxes.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Restoring Habitat for Island Foxes

courtesy of Kevin Pease
Across the Channel Islands efforts are being made to restore the natural ecosystems that the island fox depends on for survival. One such project is the restoration of a wetland area at Prisoner’s Harbor on Santa Cruz Island, in the Channel Islands National Park.

Prior to large scale ranching on Santa Cruz, the canyon at Prisoner’s Harbor had a seasonally flowing stream that created a rare coastal lagoon. This wetland would have attracted amphibians, fish, reptiles, small mammals and migrating birds. It would have provided important food and water for the island fox.

Currently the Channel Islands National Park and the Nature Conservancy are digging out the tons of gravel and dirt that were used to fill in the wetland. Eucalyptus trees that were introduced as wind breaks are being removed and native species are being replanted. You can see some of the work in progress in a video interview by the Ventura County Star with Russell Galipeau, Channel Islands National Park Superintendent.

courtesy of Kirin Daugharty
The hillsides surrounding Prisoner’s harbor have become home to Tani and Tiptu, FIF’s island foxes on twitter. What changes will the island foxes see as the wetland is restored? Will ducks and other migrating bird species visit the area this year? Or will it take years for nature to reestablish itself in this island lagoon?

Restoring native habitat comes in stages: removing introduced species, reintroducing native species that have disappeared, understanding all of the elements of reestablishing nature’s balance.

For more information on the Prisoners Harbor Coastal Wetland Restoration

Friday, January 13, 2012

An Island Fox Den

courtesy of Will Campbell

Island foxes are different from their mainland ancestors the gray fox in many ways. One of those differences is that island foxes do not dig dens. Instead they seem to look for locations that are already somewhat protective. Right now, island foxes like Tani and Tiptu are searching for a den site that is just right. (Follow the adventures of Tani and Tiptu on Twitter, in the black box at the right, and on facebook).

They might chose a den location between rocks on a hillside, under dense shrubs or a combination of the two. Because island foxes are so small, usually between 3-6 lbs., even a space under a fallen tree can make a comfortable den.

When an island fox pair comes together between December and January, they are thinking about having a family. Island fox pups born in the spring will be blind and helpless. A successful den must offer warmth and protection for the pups first 6 weeks of life. (Tani was born almost a year ago.)

Young island fox pairs, like Tani and Tiptu, do not have the experience of their parents.  They will have to learn by trial and error which locations will provide a warm, dry den site with access to nearby food.