Friday, October 11, 2019

Health Checks for Catalina Island Foxes

biologist checks island fox's teeth
Across Catalina Island biologists are counting island foxes and giving them health checks. Foxes are caught in safe capture cages.

Catalina's population has recovered from the 1998 crisis caused by the introduction of the disease canine distemper. It is natural for populations of wild animals to adjust from year to year. We now know there is a direct connection between rainfall levels and successful island fox reproduction.

The return of drought conditions in 2018 caused an estimated 20% decline in island fox numbers on both Catalina Island and Santa Cruz Island. The Good News is everyone expects 2019's return of normal rainfall levels and a cool spring will bolster plant and animal resources and restrengthen island fox numbers.

We'll be waiting to hear what the biologists find in the field.

island fox receives a distemper vaccination
Lara Brenner, Wildlife Biologist for the Catalina Island Conservancy (CIC), reminds everyone that "Disease is the number one threat to Catalina Island Fox populations." During health checks, biologists monitor fox weight, body condition, and look for "new and emerging health issues."

Catalina is the most visited Channel Island. "Visitors can help protect the Catalina Island fox from disease," Brenner says, "by keeping their pets on a leash when not indoors and by staying up-to-date on your pet's vaccinations." No one wants their pet to pass-on or receive an illness while on vacation.

Wild raccoons are still a possible way for disease to be introduced to any of the islands. Brenner reiterates "Boaters should check their craft for stowaway, non-native animals (like raccoons) that could transmit a fatal disease." 

These simple actions are big steps toward protecting island foxes.