Friday, September 27, 2019

Fox Foto Friday - Where's M152?

Remember this face from last year? M152 is a male fox on the eastern side of Santa Rosa Island. 

This year he was not counted during the annual count and health checks in his area. But don't fear... M152 is doing well. We know he is still in his territory and going about his daily life because he is wearing a radio-tracking collar.

This demonstrates the importance of having two ways to monitor island foxes. 

Annual counts and health checks allow biologists to check the health and well-being of individual animals while they have them in-hand. This provides a snapshot of the population's health as a group at a specific time.

Radio-tracking collars enable the monitoring of individual foxes throughout the year. Their movements in an area can be tracked and if something happens to them, their radio collar reports to  biologists.

M152 did not come into a capture cage this year. Perhaps he was finding plenty of food because of the normal rainfall this spring and saw no reason to enter a capture cage. Perhaps when he came across a capture cage, another fox was already in it.

M152 is a pretty wily fox. We think he is approximately 5–6 years old. In that time he's only been captured twice: in 2014 and last year in 2018. ID micro-chips make is possible for each island fox to be tracked as an individual.

We're sorry that the biologists didn't have a chance to weigh him, check his health, and take a whisker sample this summer. It would have been great to compare to his last health check.

But other foxes did get examined and their stories are important too.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Fox Foto Friday - Time for Health Checks!

Across the Channel Islands, island foxes are being counted and given health checks. This island fox on Santa Cruz Island also received a refurbished radio-tracking collar funded by Friends of the Island Fox. See her as she is released.

For the next three years this radio collar will tell biologists that this island fox is up and moving around in its environment. It will also give off a mortality signal to alert biologists if something should happen to this individual island fox. Rapid response to mortalities enables a quick response to disease or threats to other island foxes. 

What are the current threats to island foxes in 2019?

Monday, September 09, 2019

FIF Research Grant to Investigate Further Into Island Fox Diet

Friends of the Island Fox is happy to announce that Juliann Schamel's research investigating island fox diet through stable isotopes in whisker samples has been chosen to receive the FIF Research Grant for 2019. 

an island fox stash of deer mice
This second year of support will enable analysis of additional data sets to identify seasonal dietary items during drought and important to successful reproduction. It has long been believed that deer mice are a vital food item during breeding and pupping season. Is it true? Does availability to a specific food source influence successful reproduction? If island foxes do not have accesses to abundant deer mice are they less successful as parents?

The grant will also expand the study to look at island fox use of marine resources. Do island foxes use marine foods during drought? If so, which island foxes are able to make use of marine resources?

Island fox whiskers provide an amazing record of what an individual island fox has been eating over 5–6 months. All food items are made up of carbon and nitrogen, but each kind of food has a different balance of elements and therefore a different signature. These individual isotope signatures are recorded in the fox's whisker. More on Schamel's initial research.

Schamel's initial whisker data set went to the lab this spring. At the Center for Stable Isotopes at the University of New Mexico, each individual whisker is divided into tiny sections and processed in a mass spectrometer.

An island fox that eats the same kind of food (all deer mice or all plant fruit) for a period of time will show an isotope graph that is fairly flat. The mixture of carbon to nitrogen will remain the same. But if an island fox changes up its diet dramatically, a spike will appear in the graph showing a change in the isotopes laid down in the whisker.

Comparing these results for known individual island foxes, living in known habitats, will provide valuable data on how sustained drought impacts island fox diet and how diet impacts their ability to survive and thrive.

The FIF Research Grant is completely funded by YOU. Without your donations to FIF this research would still be a dream. 

Donate today to support island fox conservation research.

Thank you to all of the 2019 grant applicants for sharing your research goals with FIF. There is so much more to learn about island fox health, behavior, and interactions with other species.

Applications for the 2020 Research Grant
will be available April 15, 2020