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.

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