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.