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.