Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Celebrating Island Foxes, Bald Eagles and the Endangered Species Act

courtesy of NPS, Island Fox Recovery Group
December 28th is the 40th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This vital legislation was implemented during President Richard Nixon's administration, along with the Migratory Bird Act, the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Both political parties came together to improve the environment. Forty years later, there is much to celebrate.

Channel Island foxes were faced with extinction on four islands between 1998 and 2001. In 2004, island foxes on San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina were granted Endangered Species status resulting in additional protection and financial support for conservation efforts.

courtesy of P. Sharp, IWS, Island Fox Recovery Group
The ESA also played a vital role in protecting the bald eagle and restoring it to the Channel Island ecosystem. The interconnection between the island fox and the bald eagle meant that the survival of the island fox was dependent on the bald eagle's recovery. The role of the bald eagle on the Channel Islands.  

Protection under the ESA and conservation efforts have helped the bald eagle return from the edge of extinction. Island foxes are similarly benefiting. In less than ten years since their listing as an endangered species, island populations have shown dramatic increases and three populations have reached recovery levels. Early reports from Santa Rosa Island this fall suggest that the island fox population on Santa Rosa is now climbing toward recovery as well.

A major factor in saving the island fox has been the collaboration between government agencies, scientists, non-profit organizations and private individuals like you. Each year representatives from all of the Channel Islands, with island foxes, meet to share information and problem solve together. 

This December as we celebrate the Endangered Species Act and the success of island fox recovery, financial support to continue the annual Island Fox Recovery Group Meeting is in jeopardy. FIF knows that nothing is more important for the future of island foxes than bringing all of the people who work with the island fox together to share information. When everyone is in the same room, we save money, time and island foxes.

Help us raise $3,000 to support the annual Island Fox Recovery Group Meeting. It is a small investment, sure to reap conservation rewards. Please donate at the "Special Funding Need" donation button on the right.  

Find out more about the Endangered Species Act http://www.fws.gov/endangered/laws-policies/

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

What Does The Fox Say?

Since a music video with singers dressed as foxes went viral, the refrain "What does the fox say?" has become a recurring question.

Well we have an answer. The island fox BARKS!

Watch the video below taken in the field by biologist Calvin Duncan on Santa Catalina Island.


Island foxes bark to declare their territory. They may be small in size, but Channel Island foxes are big in personality.

Now you know what the fox REALLY says.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Radio Collars Protect Island Foxes

courtesy of Kevin Schafer
Island foxes are making a strong recovery across the Channel Islands, but the need to monitor their populations continues.
 

This past year, in 2013, three radio-collared island foxes were killed by golden eagle predation. Two foxes were killed by a golden eagle on San Miguel Island and one on Santa Cruz Island. Biologists do not know if the island foxes were killed by the same golden eagle or by two different golden eagles. The distance between the islands can be easily managed by a single large eagle. However, in the past, golden eagles have often preyed on island foxes in a specific area when they have been successful.

As the populations of island foxes have increased, the cost of radio-collaring all adults has become prohibitive. Radio-tracking collars now cost $300 each. A representative number of island foxes are radio-collared on each island–approximately 5% to 11% of individual island foxes on each of the northern islands. 

golden eagle at Denali Nat'l Park, courtesy of NPS
For each radio-collared island fox killed by a golden eagle, there is the possibility of several non-collared foxes being impacted as well. Island foxes are well camouflaged for their habitat. When an island fox without a radio collar is killed by a golden eagle it is difficult to know the incident happened, little alone to find the fox's remains. 

Because radio-tracking collars give off a specific signal when a fox is no longer living, radio collars are vital tools for locating individual island foxes and responding quickly to determine why that animal has died. Island Fox CSI

On Santa Catalina Island this past year biologists were on the look out for stowaway raccoons carrying disease. But in 2013 they encountered a new invader–a northern opossum that hitchhiked on a private boat and made its way onto the island. Introduced animals pose a serious disease threat to island foxes. Canine distemper 

Radio-tracking collars are the island foxes' best defense against unexpected threats. To-date Friends of the Island Fox supporters have funded 96 radio collars. 

The Foxy Ladies of El Segundo Ladies Golf Club
$300 Helps protect island foxes. Who has funded radio-tracking collars? 

Join with other people to help fund radio collars for island foxes. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Counting Channel Island Foxes

How do you count a population of small animals across an island, when they are so well camouflaged?


How long did it take you to find the island fox?   photo courtesy of M. Jakubowski

Each July to December, across the six Channel Islands where island foxes live, biologists put out special capture cages to catch individual animals. These wire box-traps have a door that snaps shut when the fox steps on a trigger plate at the rear of the box.

The number of cages put out each night and the manner in which they are arranged differs between islands and land managers. Tim Coonan, senior biologist for Channel Islands National Park explains that on Santa Rosa and San Miguel "Traps are deployed in small grids." These grids typically are stretched over rolling hills. The grid pattern may be two traps by six traps wide or three traps by six traps wide. The capture-trap locations are spaced approximately 250 meters apart with the capture cages usually under bushes or scrub. The cage is covered with  burlap to further protect the fox from the elements.


Cages are baited with fragrant substances particularly interesting to island foxes. Each cage has food and water. The grid of cages is checked each morning. Foxes in the cages are first scanned for their microchip ID. Biologist Calvin Duncan explains why this is important.

Each individually identified island fox is counted. This year's pups are counted separately to determine an estimated fertility rate. Pups born in April are old enough to be on their own, but they usually are somewhat smaller than adults and will not yet have received an ID microchip. While in-hand, the island fox receives a health check, vaccinations and an ID microchip or radio tracking collar if needed.


On Catalina Island capture cages are put out along lines called "strings." On mountainous terrain, strings of cages are more practical than grids. On all of the islands, actual numbers of individual island foxes caught during the fall are entered into various population modeling software to determine the best estimate for the total population. After strenuous weeks of counting in the field, it takes months in the office to produce reliable numbers. That is why the number of island foxes counted in the fall becomes official in June of the following year.

These are the official island fox population numbers through fall of 2012.
  • San Miguel Island - 540, up from a low of 15 in the year 2000
  • Santa Rosa Island - 637, up from a low of 15 in the year 2000
  • Santa Cruz Island - 1,354 , up from a low of ~62 in the year 2002
  • Santa Catalina Island - 1,502 , up from a low of ~103 in 2000



Notice how Santa Catalina and San Miguel both showed slight population drops last year. Biologists believe this a sign the populations are stabilizing at their natural levels. Drought this year may impact populations as well. Notice too how Santa Rosa is finally showing robust population increase. We hope this population will continue to recover. Whether the numbers are up or down, counting island foxes is the only way we can have the best estimate of population recovery.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Island Fox Teaching Trunk

Teachers and educators 
you can check out the Friends of the Island Fox 
Teaching Trunk!

The self-contained, lockable trunk comes with a variety of biofacts, like skull replicas and footprint casts. Students can compare the island fox to its ancestor species the gray fox or to larger relatives like the coyote and the gray wolf. Compare bald eagle and golden eagle skulls and eggs. How do they match up to the island fox?


The trunk also comes with a notebook of educational activities, videos, island species information and even art projects.

Create a story using footprints from predator and prey animals on the Channel Islands. Cast prints of fox footprints or make origami foxes.

The Teaching Trunk is checked out on a first-come basis for a two week interval. Check out is FREE but an individual will need to sign an agreement of responsibility for the return of items. 


Schools involved with the     Fox Ambassador Program or with scheduled classroom visits receive priority.

To check out the Teaching Trunk e-mail Keri at islandfoxnews@gmail.com



To schedule a Friends of the Island Fox presentation contact Pat at pat@islandfox.org

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

FIF Funds 500 Microchips for Island Fox Identification


We started with a goal of 250 microchips and with your help 
we funded 500!

island fox in a safe capture cage
That means 500 young island foxes captured during annual counting this fall will receive microchips that will identify those individual animals for the rest of their lives. 

scanner reads electronic microchip under the skin
Why are microchips so important to the conservation of the endangered island fox?


Calvin Duncan, Wildlife Biologist for the Catalina Island Conservancy, explains:

By scanning each microchip while the fox is still in the trap and checking the data we can limit the amount of time, or occurrences, that an animal is handled by humans by immediately releasing foxes that have already been captured that year. They [microchips] also support our ability to make sure each fox receives the necessary vaccines and in the proper doses. Proper identification of each fox is probably the most important aspect of our recovery and research efforts.

Microchips provide information across the life of an individual island fox, like “Burnie Boots.” Burnie’s Story

Because individual animals can be quickly identified, we now understand that male island fox pups tend to disperse as far as possible from their parents’ territory, while females tend to stay near by. On Catalina Island there is a small isthmus between the large part of the island and a small area to the northwest. Few island foxes venture across the isthmus and it was thought they were males dispersing to find territory. However, a microchip helped researchers identify a trailblazing female that also made the journey. 


Each microchip costs $10 but the investment in island fox conservation is priceless.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Coastal Clean-up Day 2013 and the Island Fox


Help make a difference for local wildlife, including the Channel Island fox.

Friends of the Island Fox and the Channel Island Park Foundation invite you to join us for:


Coastal Clean-up Day 2013
at
Ventura Harbor Cove Beach
Saturday, Sept. 21
9am-12pm


Trash in our local waterways and ocean can be life threatening to wildlife. One of our friends took this photo of a female sea lion on the Channel Islands. If you look at the female laying along the bottom of the photo, you can see some kind of man-made debris wrapped around the animal’s neck and cutting into her flesh. 

Island foxes searching for food at the water’s edge can also be injured by items that wash up on beaches. Find out about the island fox and the fishing lure

What might seem like benign trash can be dangerous to small animals. Last year a young island fox got its head caught in a small potato chip bag. In its panic to remove the bag, the island fox ended up in the surf and drown.

Some trash can even look like natural items on the beach. See items we found on the beach in June on Santa Cruz Island. 

Help Clean-up the Beach and keep wildlife and people safe.

Volunteers can register the morning of Coastal Clean-up Day at either the Channel Island National Park Visitor Center or the east end of Spinnaker Drive (Surfer’s Knoll).

If possible, please bring your own buckets and gloves.  Participants will be given data cards to record the trash they pick up. (Minors must have a parent sign a waiver for them to participate.) 

For more information see the Channel Islands Park Foundation website at http://www.ciparkfoundation.org/ 

Sunday, September 01, 2013

A MicroChip Tells the Story of a Special Island Fox

Burnie Boots in 2008; courtesy CIC
This island fox was born in 2006 and captured as a juvenile her first autumn. She was only six months old when she received her first health check and an identification microchip. A tiny passive electronic identification tag was placed under her skin, between her shoulders. For the rest of her life, biologists would be able to identify her as an individual.

In May of 2007, a human-ignited fire swept over a large swath of Catalina Island. It just happened that our little female island fox had been living in the area that went up in flames. She was the only island fox found severely injured in the 2007 fire. Her fur was singed and her feet were badly burned. The injury to her feet led to the name: “Burnie Boots.” 


Burnie Boots with injuries from the 2007 fire, CIC
In the days immediately following the fire the fox had become dehydrated and malnourished because of her injuries. Over the course of several weeks she was nursed back to health at the Catalina Island Conservancy Foxpital.

Before her release back into the wild, Burnie Boots was fitted with a radio collar funded through Friends of the Island Fox and our first Fox Ambassador School–the girls of Westridge School in Pasadena. The radio collar enabled biologists to follow the little female fox’s movements in the wild and in the fall she was recaptured and found to be fully recovered.

In 2008, at age two and a half, Burnie was captured in the fall island-fox count. Her microchip identified her even though she had few physical signs of her earlier injuries. During her health check biologists recorded that she showed signs of having nursed pups. Conservation efforts had made a difference! Burnie Boots survived because of health treatment. She was tracked with a radio collar and now had successfully helped to increase the population of endangered island foxes on Catalina.

Burnie Boots lived a completely wild life for the next year. When she was recaptured in the fall of 2009, she was in good health and weighed 4.6 lbs. The battery on her radio collar was low and she was doing well. The radio collar was removed.

For the next three seasons, Burnie Boots avoided the fall capture, but she continued to be part of the growing island fox population on Catalina Island.

Then, unexpectedly in June of 2013, the body of a female fox was found by the side of the road near Canyon Lodge in Avalon. The microchip reader quickly read the animal’s microchip and identified her as Burnie Boots. Her injuries suggested that she had been hit by a car. Watch for Foxes signs

At seven years of age, Burnie Boots’ individual story has come to an end. But because of her microchip we know she spent all of her life in a fairly small territory in a canyon behind the town of Avalon. Even after the fire, she stayed in that territory and raised pups in the area. Though she was an aging female, there was evidence Burnie had nursed a litter of pups this year. So while her individual story has ended, Burnie lives on in the DNA she has passed on to several litters of pups. This fall maybe her pups will receive ID microchips and start stories of their own.

Microchips help biologists to better understand island fox behavior. You can play a vital role in helping to save endangered island foxes. 


Help FIF microchip 500 wild island foxes this September
Just $10 microchips an island fox for life. 
Please Donate in the upper right.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Island Fox Summer Puzzle

The story of the island fox is all around you on the Channel Islands. Below is a collection of items found along the beach and trails of Santa Cruz Island during a Friends of the Island Fox's trip to see the island fox. Can you identify these items?

photo courtesy of Judy Millner

Island foxes do not swim in the ocean, but they will scavenge dead animals that wash ashore. Can you find the kelp crab carapace, mussel and two different clam shells, and remnants of a harbor seal (vertebra and half of a pelvis bone)?

DDT impacted bald eagles living on the Channel Islands. Their extinction led to a change in the natural balance which ultimately threatened island foxes. The brown pelican was also impacted by DDT in the marine environment. Fortunately, the brown pelican population has recovered because of conservation measures.  Find two hollow pelican bones. Native peoples used these bones to make flute-like instruments.

Native people have intermittently lived on the Channel Islands for over 12,000 years. The Chumash people have had a long and valued relationship with the island fox. Another island resource they valued was soapstone. Find this soft, colorful stone that was carved into a variety of items. 

Island foxes do not typically eat sea urchins, moon snails or wavy turban snails. However, these kelp forest creatures depend on a healthy island ecosystem to minimize erosion that would dump silt into the clear water surrounding the islands. This tidal area is a vital habitat for sunlight-dependent kelp forests. The island fox helps reduce island erosion by being the largest seed disperser for the island's fruiting plants. Find these sea creatures that need the island fox: three sea urchins, one moon snail and two wavy turban snails.

While the hard shell-like tunnels of the calcerous tube worm might smell interesting to an island fox, these worms live in the ocean filtering small particles of food from the water. They build their tunnels on tidal rocks and frequently on man-made docks. Find the two structures made by calcerous tube worms.

Since the mid-1800s, people have had a big impact on the Santa Cruz Island ecosystem. Find all of the items related to modern people: eucalyptus (introduced plant), concrete (from buildings), lower limb bone (canon bone) of an ungulate (sheep, goat or pig, all introduced animals), jaw bone of a pig, and a piece of molded fiberglass

Answers below:

  • kelp crab (1), mussel and two different clam shells (10), and remnants of a harbor seal (5)
  • two hollow pelican bones (8)
  • colorful soapstone (9) 
  • three sea urchins (2), one moon snail (13) and two wavy turban snails (12) 
  • calcerous tube worms (14) 
  •  eucalyptus (3), concrete tumbled in the ocean (11), lower limb bone of a sheep, goat or pig (6), jaw bone of a pig (7), a piece of molded fiberglass (4)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Radio Collar Milestone !

courtesy of Kevin Schafer
This summer:

Friends of the Island Fox 

funded its  

90th radio tracking collar
for island foxes  !

Tracking collars, like the one slightly visible on the picture at the left, are worn by island foxes across the four islands where they are considered endangered: San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina Islands. (Look for the brown of the collar just below the fox's white cheek patch and the antennae rising up behind its ear and going over its back.) Why are radio collars important?

This rare species of fox is found only on California's Channel Islands. Where do island foxes live?

In the year 2000, four of the subspecies faced extinction. But through the joint efforts of conservation organizations, government agencies, involved local citizens of all ages and dedicated biologists in the field, all of the endangered Channel Island fox populations are recovering. What does recovery look like?

Thank you to everyone: our friends, neighbors, concerned students and global partners. You all are playing an active role in helping to save the Channel Island fox.

There is still more work to do: You can play an important roll in providing lifelong identification for an island fox. 

Find out about our 2013 Microchip Challenge.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Microchipping 500 Island Foxes

What is small and makes a BIG difference for endangered Channel Island foxes?

Microchips or Passive Identification Tags (PIT)

This summer you can help make a big difference for island foxes. With help from kids, friends, baseball fans and even a dog, Friends of the Island Fox has raised $2,500 for 250 microchips for island foxes on the northern islands that are part of Channel Islands National Park.

At the annual meeting of the Integrated Island Fox Recovery Team, FIF learned that 250 microchips are also needed to provide individual identification for young island foxes on Santa Catalina Island.

The biologists on Santa Catalina Island work hard to keep island foxes safe from a variety of threats:


the tiny microchip goes under the skin
An identification microchip allows biologists to positively identify each individual island fox

As the number of island foxes on Santa Catalina stabilizes at approximately 1,500 individual animals, more resources are need to monitor their success.

For just $10 you can fund a microchip that will provide an island fox with lifelong identification. Use the PayPal button in the upper right corner to Donate Now.

Be part of the most successful recovery of an endangered species!


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Good News on Channel Island Fox Recovery

Have you heard the good news? 

All four of the subspecies of endangered Channel Island foxes are doing well. In fact, three of the subspecies are considered to be close to recovered. What constitutes recovery?

  1. Population numbers that have returned to healthy levels
  2. Reduction of threats (those that caused the original near extinction and/or new challenges to survival)
  3. Stability of the first two for at least five years

A graph of the population figures from Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina Islands shows the rapid declines toward extinction in the late 1990s. (Caused by unnatural golden eagle predation on Santa Cruz and introduced distemper virus on Santa Catalina.) 


From 2000 to 2007 island foxes increased in captive breeding facilities on each of the islands and were gradually released into the wild. Once the threats to their survival were reduced, populations of island foxes increased rapidly in the wild. Golden eagles were relocated and bald eagles were reestablished on the northern islands, while vaccinations for distemper and rabies were instituted across the islands.

On both Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina the island fox populations now fluctuate around a number that represents the carrying capacity or maximum population that can survive on each island's resources. The population of any living species alters naturally in response to available food, water and habitat.

The population numbers for island foxes are compiled annually by biologists in the field each autumn. These hard-working people  from across the six islands come together each year in June with veterinarians, scientists and government officials to discuss the status and threats to each of the six subspecies of island fox. We will have more from the annual meeting of the Integrated Island Fox Recovery Team as we compile our notes. It's been a happy busy week.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Hats Off to Foxes!

Endangered Channel Island foxes have friends across the United States. 

For the second year in a row the Fort Collins Colorado Foxes are bringing awareness about the endangered island fox to fans in Colorado. The Foxes are part of a summer Mountain Collegiate Baseball League. Last year the team helped FIF reach our goal to inoculate 400 island foxes against the distemper virus.

 This year, when: 

the Fort Collins Foxes meet the Boulder Collegians

the team will raffle off a replica Major League jersey to raise funds to help support microchipping 250 young island foxes.  (More on June 15 events and the drawing)

If you can't attend the game you can still support foxes by wearing one of the many styles of Foxes' baseball caps. When you purchase a Foxes baseball cap on-line, the team will make a 15% donation to Friends of the Island Fox

So raise your hats to the Fort Collins Foxes!

Sunday, June 02, 2013

A Day on Santa Cruz Island

Saturday, June 1 Friends of the Island Fox led an adventurous day trip to Santa Cruz Island and the endangered Channel Island fox made 56 new friends!

Island Journal - Santa Cruz Island

Would you believe the boat is still at the end of the dock?
The fog was thick as we arrived at Prisoner's Harbor on Santa Cruz Island, but it helped keep the day moderate in temperature. 

It was fascinating to see how much the native plants in the restored wetland had grown in a year. (Santa Cruz wetland in 2012) Gone were the green and yellow flags marking the newly planted vegetation. In their place were blooming Santa Cruz Island buckwheat, leggy willows and a melange of wetland plants. 

Looking across the planted wetland toward the dead snag
 Despite the low rainfall this year, two ponds were attracting a variety of insects and birds including the rare island scrub jay (Aphelocoma insularis). 

We had hardly stepped off the pier when we had our first view of the scrub jay flying overhead. Throughout the day we saw numerous individuals; some carrying food to nests on the hillsides.

Everyone was keeping an eye open for an island fox. In the early afternoon a male island fox came to investigate the lower area near the barn and picnic tables. He appeared several times, sniffing through the vegetation, marking his territory and eventually climbing up the hillside. 

Photo courtesy of Michael Lawshe
It was a great day. We were able to see both of Santa Cruz Island's unique creatures in one afternoon. A huge thank you to all of the people that came out with Friends of the Island Fox. Through their participation in this event, each person helped fund a microchip for an endangered island fox this coming fall.

Keri Dearborn - Education Director, FIF

Take a virtual trip to Santa Cruz through the photos of Douglas Welch and Michael Lawshe.

video


You can visit the island fox in its natural habitat too. Now that all populations of endangered island foxes are recovering, visitors to the Channel Islands have a good opportunity to see this rare species in the wild. You can see island foxes in the wild at Channel Islands National Park and Santa Catalina Island. What to remember when visiting the island fox.

Interested in Joining Us on a trip to the islands? Subscribe to our e-newsletter and be the first to know about upcoming trips.

Other Island Journals from Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz in Spring 2012
Student Returns to Santa Cruz

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Island Fox Summer 2013 Campfire Talks

It is a great time to visit California's Channel Islands or the mainland beaches that look out at the islands.

Santa Cruz Island looking south to Anacapa Islands in the distance.

Join Friends of the Island Fox at Carpinteria State Beach for a campfire talk about the endangered Channel Island fox.


FIF will be presenting the campground campfire program at Carpinteria State Beach:

  • Friday, June 14
  • Wednesday, July 24
  • Saturday, August 24

June and July campfire programs begin at 8:30 pm; August campfire is at 8 pm.

Why is the island fox endangered? Why is it important that we make efforts to save this animal now and into the future? Programs answer these questions and are geared for the whole family. 

Come out and join us!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Challenge Grant to Microchip Island Foxes

Friends of the Island Fox has a goal of funding...

for island foxes counted this fall on the northern islands

(See NPS biologist Tim Coonan's talk on the status of island foxes on the northern Channel Islands).



What is a microchip and why do endangered island foxes need them?

Each microchip costs $10 and it provides important individual identification for the entire life of an island fox.



So far in 2013 FIF has raised:

$1,198 to fund microchips for 119 island foxes
We are almost half way to our September goal of 250

FIF Education Director, Keri Dearborn and her husband Michael Lawshe propose:
  
A Challenge Grant in the name of their dog, Inali


Inali means "black fox" in Cherokee and this big black dog was a strong supporter of island fox conservation. She was the photo model for FIF's campaign to educate people about not taking pets onto the Channel Islands. Dogs, cats and raccoons can all be vectors for diseases that threaten island foxes. 

She also loved watching the videos of island foxes produced by Michael and Eclipse-1 Media for Friends of the Island Fox.


The Challenge Grant will 
match the next $300 donated to FIF for microchips

It's as if your donation is doubled.  

Inali was microchipped as a puppy. Though she passed away earlier this year, she continues to be a friend of the endangered island fox and we hope 30 island foxes will be microchipped in her name. 

Help an island fox have an identification microchip for life. 

Island Fox Donations

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Channel Island Fox Status Update for Northern Islands 2013

In the year 2000, Channel island foxes on San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Islands were facing extinction. But just thirteen years later, these endangered animals are making a strong comeback.

The video below "Keeping Every Cog and Wheel: Saving the Island Fox from Extinction" is a presentation given by Channel Islands National Park senior biologist Tim Coonan in April 2013 as part of the Shore to Sea series at the National Park. (this is the full hour lecture)



See Tim Coonan releasing the last captive island fox back into the wild.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Microchips Identify an Island Fox For Life

microchips or PIT tags beside a penny
What's smaller than a penny and vital to island fox conservation? Microchips or passive integrated transponder tags (PIT tags).

Unlike a radio tracking collar that monitors the location and activity of an island fox, and has a 1-2 year battery life, these tiny microchips provide individual identification for the life of an island fox.

This technology is called "passive" because there is no battery involved. The tiny capsule is placed under the fox's skin using a hypodermic needle. The microchip stays in place between the shoulders and under the skin throughout the animal's life. When a biologist scans the island fox with a handheld radio-frequency reading device, the circuitry in the microchip sends an individualized code back to the reader.


The code in each microchip is different, enabling each individual island fox to have its own unique identification number. These microchips are similar to those used in pet dogs and cats. They were first used in fish like salmon, so that individual salmon could be counted as they swam past a submerged reader. The animal just has to come in close proximity to the reader for the information to be transferred.

Microchips not only identify each individual endangered island fox, they provide the ability to track data on individual animals as they mature, produce offspring and age. Not all island foxes wear radio collars and it is impossible for biologists to physically identify all of the individual island foxes. Island foxes are like people and they change in appearance over time. See if you can identify an individual island fox. 

When an island fox is caught during its first fall counting, it receives a health check and a microchip. From that moment on, it is known as an individual. For example: A female island fox was caught in September 2012 on the east end of Santa Catalina Island. She had numerous bite wounds from another island fox. Her injuries were treated topically and she was released. 

A month later in October 2012 a female island fox was caught on the west end of the island. The microchip ID revealed it was the same female. She was the first female island fox known to have traveled across the narrow isthmus since the foxes on Catalina became endangered. She traveled over 10 miles to get away from the territory of her aggressor.

Channel Islands National Park biologists have challenged FIF to:

Fund microchips for 250 island foxes in 2013
Each microchip costs $10 


Most of the foxes to be microchipped in the fall will be pups born this month. We made our goal last year

You can help us reach our goal of $2,500 for 250 microchips in 2013 by donating today.  

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Earth Day 2013 and the Island Fox

April means Earth Day! 

Time to go out and enjoy the outdoors. Time to make connections with local wildlife and work to make sure our wild friends have safe and healthy ecosystems.

Friends of the Island Fox will be out celebrating the successes of island fox conservation at several events this month and next. Come out and join us:


Saturday, April 13 at Fresno Chaffee Zoo, Fresno CA

FIF will have a booth at the "Party for the Planet" 9 AM - 3 PM. The Fresno Chaffee Zoo has been a great island fox friend. Last year they provided a grant to inoculate 200 island foxes against canine distemper and in prior years they have funded 20 radio monitoring collars


 Saturday, April 27 at the Santa Monica Mountains Science Festival at Paramount Ranch, Santa Monica National Recreation Area


FIF and the Channel Islands Park Foundation will be joining the rangers of the Channel Islands National Park at a booth. There will all kinds of information about island foxes and other island and sea creatures.

Saturday, May 18 at the Dean Dana Friendship Park Environmental Faire in San Pedro

Join FIF at the home of another endangered species, the Palos Verde blue butterfly. We'll have a booth with biofacts and activities - is your sense of smell as good as an island fox's? Come find out. 

The Los Angeles Zoo is still home to a male island fox. You can visit him and participate in Earth Day Expo on Saturday, April 20th.  

There is much to be thankful for this Earth Day, but there is still a lot of conservation work to do. Come and join in at an Earth Day 2013 event.