Tuesday, July 14, 2015

FIF Helps Meet Urgent Need For Channel Island Foxes

At the Island Fox Conservation Working Group meeting on June 16th, we learned of a serious threat looming over Channel Island foxes. The Canine Distemper virus (CDV) is highly contagious and deadly to these small canines. It nearly caused the Catalina Island fox's extinction in 1999.

Since that emergency, Channel Island foxes have been vaccinated for CDV with a specific vaccine designed for ferrets. Unfortunately, the vaccine has not been produced for two years. Island land managers have only been able to use vaccine they had on hand, leaving the majority of island foxes unprotected for the last two years.

A new CDV vaccine has recently become available, however it is unclear whether it will be effective for island foxes. There is great urgency to test the new vaccine before fall counting and health check season. This is the only time when a large number of island foxes are handled by biologists on all islands.

Safe capture cages allow island foxes to be captured for health checks
island fox radio-tracking collars
As part of an emergency effort to verify the effectiveness of the new CDV vaccination, five island foxes will be tested on each island. Each of these individuals, which have never been vaccinated for distemper before, will be caught, blood tested, vaccinated with the new vaccine, radio-collared, and released. 

These radio-collared individuals will be caught again a month later and their blood will be tested to verify that they have built-up antibodies against the disease. ID microchips and records on each animal enable biologists to know which island foxes can participate in this test.

This is an extra unexpected cost for each island. Friends of the Island Fox committed to quickly fund:

FIVE radio-tracking collars for Santa Rosa Island ($1,500) 

FIF Santa Cruz Island Trip 2015
Thanks to the participants on our Santa Cruz Island Trip and generous private donors, we have provided these important funds. 
The vaccine is currently being tested across the islands. If the new CDV vaccine provides protection to Channel Island foxes, we may be raising money for vaccinations to protect as many individuals as possible this fall.

Your support helped us to pledge this important financial commitment. Thank You to all of our conservation supporters.