Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Which Island Foxes Wear Radio Collars?

island fox with radio tracking collar; courtesy CIC
Island fox populations are returning to normal levels across the six California Channel Islands where this rare species lives. With hundreds of island foxes on each island, the number of radio-collared animals is limited to a representative group. Typically 40-60 individual animals wear radio-tracking collars on each island.

 Which island foxes receive radio tracking collars?

Island foxes that wear radio-tracking collars are typically younger–ages 1-4 years old. Island foxes can live 8-10 years in the wild, with rare individuals living to age 12 years. Younger animals are more likely to move across the islands as they try to find a mate and establish their territory. (Female that traveled across Catalina's isthmus

While some radio-collared island foxes are individuals with specific survival challenges (Burnie Boots and three-legged island fox), most collared island foxes act as disease and predator sentinels. If something happens to these foxes their demise is quickly brought to the biologists' attention because of the radio collar. When an island fox stops moving, even breathing, for over six-eight hours the collar signals a specific mortality signal. Using the signal, biologists can locate the island fox's body, discover the cause of death and take action. (Listen to radio signals on our Audio/Video page)

“Being able to identify the threats greatly improves our ability to understand and protect this unique species,” says Julie King, director of conservation and wildlife management for the Catalina Island Conservancy. Once the carcass is collected it is sent to the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory to ascertain the exact cause of death.

Both male and female island foxes can be sentinels. These individuals are not vaccinated against the two most threatening diseases to island foxes–rabies and canine distemper. (FIF vaccination funding) 

courtesy of Jason Bean
Reading information from the radio-collars varies across the islands. On flat-terrain islands radio receiver towers pick up the signals of island foxes in their area and relay the information to a computer terminal. Mountainous terrain is more challenging; on some islands radio-collar signals are picked up from the air by small aircraft, weekly or biweekly. On other islands, biologists with hand-held antennae and a receiver locate island foxes from vehicles or on foot.

In 2014 FIF has the goal to fund our 100th radio collar. With your help we will reach that goal. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Come to the Fox Festival

Where can you see island foxes and learn more about them without taking a trip to the Channel Islands?

At the...

Sunday, Feb. 16th 2014
11 AM - 3 PM

Friends of the Island Fox invites you to join us in celebrating FOXES !

There will be activities, crafts, Keeper Talks, and an opportunity to see Channel Island foxes and compare them with the Zoo's new African fennec foxes. 

What do these two species of tiny foxes have in common? Which has the bigger ears? Which eats insects?

The Santa Barbara Zoo is also home to several bald eagles. 

Come out and join the Fox Fun. Friends of the Island Fox will have a booth with current island fox information and fox related activities.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Bald Eagle Recovery on California Channel Islands

courtesy of Peter Sharp
The return of bald eagles to the California Channel Islands has been a slow but steady effort that has aided the Channel Island fox recovery on the northern islands. A robust bald eagle population keeps away golden eagles, island fox predators.  

Island fox recovery has been incredibly rapid. More typical of efforts to save endangered species, bald eagle conservation has spread across decades: 
  • 1967 bald eagle listed as endangered species
  • 1970s bald eagles become extinct on the Channel Islands
  • 1980 - 1986: 33 young bald eagles are reintroduced to Catalina Islands 
  • 1987: eggs laid by bald eagles on Catalina Island fail to survive because of continuing high levels of DDT in marine ecosystem
  • 1989: bald eagle eggs taken from Catalina Island nests and incubated. Later hatchlings or foster chicks are returned to nests. 
  • 2000 - 2002: juvenile bald eagles reintroduced to the northern Channel Islands 
  • 2006 first chick hatched without human assistance on the Channel Islands in 50 years; female A-49
  • 2007 bald eagle eggs hatch on Catalina Island without human assistance
  • June 2007 bald eagle taken off of the Endangered Species List
  • 2012 Female A-49 nests for the first time on Santa Cruz Island, but first chick does not survive
  • 2013 MILESTONE EVENT - Female A-49 and mate become the parents of female chick A-89 the first second-generation bald eagle chick successfully fledged on the Channel Islands since the beginning of the recovery effort

According to the biologists managing the bald eagle recovery program, fifteen pairs of bald eagles attempted to nest on the Channel Islands last year. See a photo of A-89 and the full accounting of bald eagle nesting on the Channel Islands in 2013 at the Institute for Wildlife Studies.

As a large predatory bird, the bald eagle plays an important role on the California Channel Islands. For more about bald eagle recovery SEE Video: Return Flight: Restoring the Bald Eagle to the Channel Islands by the Filmmakers Collaborative