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.